Necromancy For Foals

by Queen Sanguine Dreams

First published

Far from Canterlot and forced to work in gem mines for cruel Diamond Dogs, a young unicorn named Bone Marrow's pursuit of his cutiemark reveals a unique talent: raising the dead.

Set only a week after the banishment of Princess Luna to the moon, the realm of Equestria is in a state of upheaval. Celestia's royal guard attempt to regain control over the vast empire once ruled by dual monarchs, and the young alicorn's actions as a ruler have become a subject of scrutiny after her sister's attempted coup. Two factions have risen in the turmoil: The Knights of the Sun and The Bright Moon.

Far away from the political infighting and sword rattling exists a small mining town on the outskirts of Equestrian territory. Where once the royal guard would have no trouble fending off raids from bandits or other criminals, the panic of the capitol has caused a withdrawal of military forces to more essential cities and trading ports. Completely undefended and without a spell or sword amongst them, this town was soon overrun by a band of bi-pedal canines calling themselves the Diamond Dogs. As brutal as they are lazy, the Diamond Dogs have forced the local population to work until collapse to collect gems from the town mine.

Outraged by his inability to fend off these bandits and thieves, a young unicorn named Bone Marrow tries with all of his might to find his purpose in life - his cutie mark - and hopes that it will be enough to drive off the invaders of his home. He will soon discover that his special talent is far more than he bargained for.

((A Sequel will begin for this story as soon as I finish I Am a Pet Changeling. Stay tuned on Discord! ))

Dead Bird

View Online

A comparatively large canine loomed in an opened doorway, their wide body blocking some of the light coming into the building and creating a menacing silhouette. Once well maintained and pleasant to live in, the small mining town's main hall had been stuffed with ponies that had been torn from their homes and thrown inside. The windows were boarded up, all light was blocked from within and the time of day was impossible to figure out.

Awoken from the light and squinting through the dusty air that drifted from the Diamond Dog's entry lay a small unicorn foal curled up against his parents; his father a baker and the mother a news crier. The canine bandit said nothing, swinging around a ball and chain mace while appearing bored and disinterested with the few dozen ponies cowering in front of him.

Not one of the ponies left in Scoria were fighters; Celestia's royal guard had completely withdrawn a mere two days ago after an attempted coup took place in the capitol, leaving the once guarded town completely exposed. Those who didn't flee with the guards remained behind; either too stubborn to leave or simply incapable of it due to ability or funding.

The lack of guards emboldened the nearby bandits. Griffons, ponies and canines fought each other in the streets of Scoria for two full days and nights before the Diamond Dogs claimed victory and ownership of the town. Burrowing underground to soon emerge and overwhelm any ground fighter combined with dishonorable tactics and sheer numbers proved too much for the careful griffons, and the pony bandits routed the moment their leader was slain in combat.

The ponies that had survived remained as slaves to the Diamond Dogs, forced to work until collapse on threat of injury should they refuse. The menacing canine standing in the doorway reminded the ponies of their new place in life, and it angered the unicorn foal to no end.

"Why don't you just go away!?" he shouted. His parents covered his mouth with dirty hooves as quickly as they could, fearing for their son's life. The Diamond Dog was unimpressed by the foal's outburst, venting air from his nostrils and snarling before steadily walking towards the small pile of concerned equines.

"What pony's name?" The canine growled, reaching down and swiftly picking up the foal in a paw that dwarfed his small body. "Why pony loud?"

The foal was too busy struggling to break the dog's grasp to answer, biting his paw as hard as he could and receiving a sharp nailed flick across his cheek for the effort. Raising the pony by the neck and facing it towards the group, he asked again. "What pony's name?"

Distressed, the foal's mother spoke up while resisting her husband's efforts to keep her away from the Diamond Dog. "His name is Bone Marrow! Please don't hurt him, I'll do anything!"

The brute nodded approvingly, licking his lips. Tossing the foal to his parents he added, "Bone marrow tasty. Good name."

With that thought on his mind, he soon turned around towards the slightly unhinged door leading to the sunny outside. Heavy steps and scratching nails kept the ponies on edge for what felt like hours before he finally slammed the door shut behind him only to have it creak open afterwards. The room was completely silent for a full minute to ensure that they were alone before speaking.

"What were you thinking, Bonehead?" The mayor scolded in a harsh whisper. "You could have been killed!"

"They're mean and they hurt ponies. I want them to go away." Bone Marrow explained. "No pony tried telling them to go away yet, so I thought that I should try it."

The mayor held her breath for quite a while, closing her eyes and doing her best to restrain her temper. Finally exhaling in a controlled rush, she calmed down enough to speak. "Bonehead, you're not going to get them to leave with words. They're not the kind of folk to listen to reason. They come and take what they want, and without the guard here we can't fight them."

"There's more of them than us as well, and they have weapons." Bone's father added. "We all saw what they did to the griffons. We're better off just doing what they tell us than fighting them."

"We shouldn't be pushed around by them!" Bone argued. "They're smelly, they hurt ponies, they're mean-"

"Bone Marrow, listen to me," His mother urged, "Just do what they say, and maybe we'll all live long enough to see what kind of cutie mark you get, okay? We can all have a big party after this when the guards get back from their training exercise and pretend this never happened."

"When are they getting back?" Bone questioned, looking between his parents and the mayor, noticing ponies in the back turning their heads away or towards the floor. "They've been gone forever!"

His father patted him on his head and pulled him into a hug. "Any day now, Bonehead. Any day."

The mayor's ear twitched and she turned to face the door. Focusing intensely for a moment, she warned what remained of the town that the Diamond Dog was coming back. Everypony rushed to their previous spots and tried to remain as still as possible when the door opened again.

"Time for work, pony!" The large dog shouted, banging the handle of his mace on the door-frame and bending the hinges out of shape until the door fell free onto the floor with a loud wooden crash. "Get gems for Diamond Dog. Now!"

Flinching as if whipped, the older ponies got to their hooves as quickly as they could and rushed out of the door. The large canine shoved and threw ponies out of the town hall so they would move faster as he grew more impatient with their careful progress. Bone's mother was the last pony out, giving him a wave and a forced smile before being thrown from the building into the dirt outside. As the Diamond Dog stomped out of the room to bark orders along with the rest of his band, Bone Marrow peeked from the now unbarred doorway to watch his parents join the mob marching towards the mines in a disorganized mess.

"This isn't fair." Bone Marrow complained aloud. "I could kick them all out of town if I had a fighting cutie mark. All the royal guard have cutie marks with swords or bows or even fireballs, and here I am with two whole white flanks full of nothing."

Deciding that staying near the open door would probably get him into trouble, Bone moved deeper into the town hall to find a comfortable place to wait for his parents' return. A torn circular rug dominated the center of the hall with overturned desks and tables dotting the area. Chairs were piled up on the staircases to make passage difficult for the mostly earth pony population and anything of comfort was taken by the Diamond Dogs when they seized control of the town. With his friends and family gone, Bone Marrow was now painfully aware of how lonely it was being the only foal that couldn't go with the royal guard on their training exercise. His mother had told him he was too small to go along and his father had told him they would train in their yard instead. The next morning however was when all of the fighting in the town had broken out.

Finding the reception desk had remained untouched, he hopped atop of it and laid down. A few days ago he had delivered a horn-written letter to his grandparents as the first milestone of growing up, and now he had trouble remembering it even happened.

Caught between nostalgia for happier times and anger at the Diamond Dogs, Bone Marrow almost didn't notice a small black shape dart its way into the room. Looking up and squinting he noticed a small black bird hopping around and pecking at the floor's rug.

"A raven?" he asked aloud.

The bird froze for a moment, staring at the foal on the desk with a black beady eye before turning its head and fluttering towards him.

"Aaah!" Bone shouted, scrambling to get away from the inbound raven and clumsily falling on his back to the floorboards below him. Above him was the perched raven, looking sideways with one eye and remaining silent. Brushing the dust from his coat, Bone stared back at the bird. "Don't look at me like that, it's rude."

The raven then crowed at him, causing Bone to flinch away in fear of the bird possibly landing on him. When that event did not come to pass, he slowly opened his eyes to stare at the bird once more. "What?"

The raven crowed again, moving its beak towards the door and hopping in the same direction. Seeing that Bone Marrow had no idea what it wanted, the raven crowed louder and fluttered its wings.

A look of cautious understanding crept over Bone's face. "You want me to follow you?"

The bird looked directly at Bone before crowing in a softer tone moving slowly towards the foal before hopping onto his head.

"Aah!" Bone yelped, trying to swat the bird from his head. "Get off!"

The raven decided enough was enough and flew towards the town hall's doorway, crowing distantly to Bone upon landing.

"I can't go outside, I'll get in trouble!" Bone protested from behind the reception desk with his head barely clearing the top.

This caused the raven to crow even louder in an attempt of persuasion that fell on deaf pony ears.

Looking around, the raven soon spotted a shiny looking object on the floor. Bone immediately recognized the object in the raven's grasp as his father's pocket watch. "Let that go you stupid bird!"

Seeing the foal was agitated it soon hopped closer to the doorway, taunting the foal by swinging the chain that held the pocket watch back and forth.

"Get back here with that, bird!" Bone shouted, scrambling over the top of the table before rushing out of the door after the kleptomaniac raven.

With all of the Diamond Dogs managing the town ponies at the mine, there were surprisingly far fewer dogs to worry about than Bone Marrow had considered. Attempting to trot as quietly as he could on the dirt road, the white unicorn foal kept the raven with his father's watch in sight as well as he was able, following it through streets and alleyways.

Damp dirt, broken weapons and feathers were strewn around the town along with arrows that had embedded into the walls of nearby buildings. Piles of bodies were heaped at the main intersection of the town, but Bone Marrow was far too concerned with the raven to even notice them. Broken windows, torn doorways and splintered wood were a common sight in the remote town, as well as the odd pile of garbage or foul smelling sewage of the Diamond Dogs. Bone avoided as much of the muck as he could, but the bird's path took him through much of the things he would normally avoid.

Seeing the raven suddenly dive into an alleyway, Bone seized the moment and charged as fast as his small legs would carry him. Turning the corner and expecting to find a tired bird, he was caught off guard by the mangled body of the same raven.
The pocket watch was wrapped around the bird's neck that was bent at an unhealthy angle at best, causing Bone to look away in disgust. Shutting his eyes and trying to think of happy thoughts he was soon made aware of approaching paw-steps.

Without thinking, he threw himself behind the nearest cover. A sundered wagon proved to be his salvation when the two loudmouthed Diamond Dogs walked past, growling and grumbling to each other. Taking a sigh of relief he looked over to the now dead raven, his face scrunching with discomfort.

"I'm gonna have to get that watch, aren't I?" He asked himself quietly. Working up the courage to touch a dead animal by breathing deeply and inching closer to the bird with every step he soon found himself closer to the bird than he had hoped he would ever get.

"I can't just ask you to give it back to me, can I?" He begged the dead raven. "Please? I don't want to touch you... you're... icky and dead."

Earning no response from the obviously dead bird, Bone Marrow gulped down what remained of his courage in order to move the raven onto its back in order to slide the pocket watch off of its neck. Closing his eyes and looking away, he wished that the bird would simply give him the watch back instead of him having to touch it. Feeling a warmth in his horn, his eyes shot open as he noticed it was now alight with a soft blue glow. The same glow that he had noticed during his writing of the letter when he held his ink-pen.

"Of course! I'll use my magic to grab it! No more touching nasty dead things. Eww." Bone Marrow concluded, scraping off imaginary 'yuck' from his hoof into the dirt beneath him. With confidence, he focused his mental effort on the bird in order to lift the pocket watch from its body with a thin smile of determination on his face.

That smile slowly faded into horror when he noticed that the bird was falling apart. Caught in his magic, the raven's feathers soon fell from its body into a cloud of ash, causing Bone to drop the dead body in fright. Backing away into the broken wagon he witnessed the bird slowly disintegrate into a pile of ash with only the bones remaining. Pure white in coloration, no flesh remaining. A skeleton.

Shaking, staring at the bird skeleton and wishing it was all a dream, Bone Marrow was further horrified by the sight of the bird not only moving on its own, but soon slowly standing upright to stare at him once more. A bright flash of light was seen from the corner of Bone Marrow's eye, but his attention was far too focused on the explainable phenomenon in front of him. Taking deep breaths to calm himself down, he stood up and inched carefully away from the silent gaze of the skeleton raven until he noticed the pocket watch that he had come out here in the first place for. He couldn't leave without it, but that meant he would have to approach whatever the bird-thing was now.

"Um..." Bone Marrow called out quietly, his courage barely remaining with him at this point, "Are you going to hurt me?"

The raven simply stared back at Bone, nary a muscle to move.

"No pecking, promise?"

Seeing that the bird possibly wasn't going to reply any time soon, Bone used his magic to tug the pocket watch closer to him through the dust and dirt of the alley way. 'I wish you would just give me the watch and go away, crazy bone bird.' Bone Marrow lamented to himself.

Soon after this thought, the bird hopped forward and took the watch in its beak. "Not again!" Bone protested, but was soon made silent by the dead raven bringing the pocketwatch directly to his hooves before backing away. Soon after a look of confusion from Bone, the bird somehow took flight without its feathers and disappeared from sight.

Looking up to where the bird had gone and then to the floor, Bone's priorities shifted to the very real possibility that the Diamond Dogs might come back to the town hall to find him missing, and that would get everypony in trouble. Taking the watch in his mouth, not without complaint of course, Bone Marrow sneaked, darted, dashed and sprinted his way back to the town hall without catching a single hair on the back of a Diamond dog.

His tiny hooves felt heavy as he trotted into the main hall, the weight of avoiding pain from the Diamond Dogs and from his father being angry about his pocket watch being taken melted from his mind as he found a comfortable place to rest. Celestia's sun was lowering in the distance and it was almost time for Bone's parents to return along with the rest of the ponies in town. He hadn't remembered all of their names yet due to spending more time with his parents than wandering around Scoria, but he still liked most of them. The meaner ones had already left with the guards to go train as far as he knew, so Bone wasn't very concerned about them.

His ears shifted as if they had heard a noise, causing Bone to raise his head and investigate. Looking around, nopony had managed to sneak in without his notice, so he assumed the noise came from the front of the town hall. Expecting to find a clever pony, he was instead greeted by the sigh of the skeleton bird once more. It was staring silently at him from the entrance, a hollow shadow stretched across the length of the floor making it appear far more menacing than it truly was.

"You again!" Bone whisper shouted at the skeleton.

Spreading its bony wings and giving a single flap, the raven coasted through the air silently to land on Bone's side. Not moving for fear of being pecked, Bone soon witnessed what remained of the bird apparently curl up and tuck its head in the nook of its rib cage and nesting on him. His ears folded downward in worry, unsure if he should move to swipe the bird off and risk it attacking him or to simply let it sit there for the time being. He would have to explain to everypony why there was a skeleton bird on his flank, but he reasoned it would be better to do that than have it fly in and annoy the Diamond Dog when he eventually came back.

"Wait a minute..." Bone gasped aloud. Brushing the skeleton bird off of his flank, he was allowed a closer look. "My cutie mark!"

Standing up quickly and giving himself a head rush, Bone took a moment to regain his balance before resuming his joyous circular dance. "I've got a cutie mark!" He cheered, looking at each of his flanks in kind to assure himself that it had indeed finally happened. It was a shield, or maybe a sword and a shield together! It was...

"Huh?" Bone blurted, stopping his festivities completely and coming to a dead stop. Upon closer inspection, and the skeleton's likeness, Bone Marrow soon realized that his cutie mark was that of a raven's skull. His lips scrunching in frustration along with the rest of his face, Bone sat down aggressively on his behind and folded his front hooves.

"My special talent is skeleton bird making." He stated in a manner of fact tone. "Dead birds... alive again, but not."

Looking over to the bird, Bone found that it too was staring back at him. He could have sworn that the bird shrugged.

"At least its not knitting."

Intersection of Death

View Online

Bone Marrow had waited in the dusty town hall for only ten minutes before he began to worry. The Diamond Dogs had not returned and the rest of the town was nowhere no be seen. Pacing in circles on the worn rug in the center of the hall, the bone raven sat perched on the second floor's wooden safety railing to stare at him.

"They should have been back by now," Bone anxiously voiced, "Why haven't they come back?"

Looking up to the raven, Bone was again greeted by its silent and eyeless stare. The bird still moved as if it had feathers, preening the empty air between its bones and fidgeting in discomfort. The foal looked away, attempting to focus on a single problem at a time.

"Okay... nopony has come back yet, but there hasn't been any yelling or fighting. That's a good thing... right?" Bone asked nopony in particular. Looking to the vacant doorway and half hoping to see the large Diamond Dog standing there, his worry only deepened when a strand of torn cloth flew past in the wind. Caught between the risk of going out to search and causing trouble for those he cared about or the 'safety' of remaining in the town hall, Bone unknowingly edged closer and closer to the doorway as he weighed the benefits of each. If he remained in the hall, the Diamond Dogs would know where he was and wouldn't punish anypony for staying put. On the other hoof, they would know exactly where he was, and that was a bad thing for his continued existence. His parents and the town would know where he was as well, but he didn't know where they were at the same time.

Bone groaned aloud towards the cracking roof of the town hall, wiping away a line of dust that had broken through the roof tiles in the same moment. "Why does this have to be so complicated!"

The skeleton raven seemed to tire of Bone's inaction and flew down from its perch towards the foal. Still occupied with wiping debris from his eyes, he barely cared that the bird decided to nest in his mane. He was far more concerned with finding his parents than the possible health hazard that a recently deceased and magically resurrected avian might present to him.

"Well, nopony else is being useful I guess," Bone assumed, looking around the still empty hall one last time before exiting through the broken doorway into the equally dusty streets. For the first time Bone noticed the pile of bodies in the intersection and turned away just as quickly as he had seen it. "Oh, Celestia!"

While Bone was busy covering his mouth and doing his best to retain what little bread he had eaten a few hours ago, the skeleton raven decided that the pile of dead was a much more comfortable place to nest than the foals head, and flew directly to the top of the pile to begin biting a hemi-sphere of flesh from the topmost dead griffon corpse. Curious as to what the noise was, Bone instantly regretted his curiosity and immediately failed to maintain hold of his lunch.

"Would you quit that!?" Bone weakly complained after regaining the ability to speak from between dry-heaves. "That's gross!"

With a blood covered face and body, the raven looked up at Bone before cocking its head sideways. Soon after, the skeleton climbed out of its now impressive crater that had been pecked and shredded out of the griffon's stomach. Waiting patiently for Bone to stop convulsing, the raven resumed its pointless preening ritual.

Sitting far away from his pile of sickness contained by clotted dirt, Bone Marrow stared at his gore covered 'companion' with a mixture of concern and opportunity. He had the ability to raise dead birds, as far as he had discovered so far, but what if it was a greater talent than that? Maybe it could be larger birds, or maybe just bird-like things? Maybe they didn't have to have wings, or maybe they didn't even have to be animals!

His excitement grew along with his stomach's protest at the ideas flowing through his mind while staring at the pile of dead. What if they could talk? What if they didn't want to listen to him, or if they just went off to do their own thing like nothing had happened. At that moment another thought entered his head: Were they now his responsibility since he had returned them to life?

Looking to the raven and tapping the dirt in front of him with a hoof, Bone called out, "Hey raven, can you come here?"

Immediately and obediently the raven glided from its pile of corpses to Bone's hoof and remained standing there, staring at him like usual.

"This is kind of strange, but if my special talent is dead things, or bringing dead things back to not-dead-ness, then does that make me... your parent?" Bone cautiously asked, half expecting an answer and half certain he was going insane.

To his surprise, the bird nodded. Unsurprisingly and a bit to Bone's disgust, a drop of blood fell from the bird's beak in the same moment before being absorbed into a brown clump on the ground.

"Okay... so that means if I use my special talent on anything else, then... um..." Bone tried to reason, before his mind failed him and his train of thought was lost. "Like..." Bone attempted to restart, but again couldn't come up with something to finish his thought. His face scrunching in frustration, the foal tucked his hooves close to his chest and made displeased and grumpy noises.

His raven, thankfully, had caught on to the train of thought and pecked the foal's hind hoof. The sharp jolt of pain caught Bone's attention and annoyance, giving the raven opportunity for his pointing wing bones to be noticed. Looking from the raven to the pile of dead and becoming more confused, the skeleton bird decided to make its point painfully obvious. Flapping to the heap of corpses and pecking at them once more, the raven revealed the femur of a dead earth pony bandit and began tugging at it towards Bone.

"What do you want me to do, move them?" Bone asked, moving closer to the raven and the dead. "They're way bigger than I am. There's no way I can carry them!"

Dropping a chunk of flesh and staring once more at Bone Marrow, the bird suddenly took off and landed on the foal's horn and pointed once more with its wing towards the pile of dead.

"You... want me to magic them?" Bone reasoned, giving a nervous smirk. "Can I do that?" Another peck from the raven to Bone's horn was message clear enough. "Ow! Alright!"

Looking at the pile of dead and no longer feeling sick, Bone tried to focus on them, reaching out with his magic like he had to do in order to grasp a pen. He tried to lift them, to pull them, to shake or move them in any way, but only became tired from his efforts. He shoved them manually, yelled at them, even bargained with the pile of bodies, demanded they get up, begged them to do something and all to no success. A solid hour of time or longer was spent; Bone wasn't keeping track. His world had become consumed by figuring out how to get these bodies to move again like he had with the bird.

Becoming more frustrated, Bone sat down roughly in the dirt with his hooves once again crossed in front of his chest. "I can't do it! These dumb bodies won't listen to me and I tried everything!"

At that point his raven flew away from him to the interior of the town hall. Too exhausted to move, Bone decided to tilt sideways onto the dirt and simply lay there. It was more comfortable than sitting on his flank and he was seriously beginning to worry that his talent remained solely with raising skeleton birds at this point. As he was about to fall asleep from his efforts, Bone was struck in the face with something cold and metallic. His eyes shot open to find his father's pocket watch dangling in front of his face, swinging back and forth like a grandfather clock and poking his nose on the return swing.

"Huh?" Bone blurted, pushing his upper half from the ground to get a better look. "What's that for?"

The swinging of the watch hastened before it was tossed onto the pile of bodies by the raven. Before Bone could protest, the raven landed on his horn once more and pointed to the bodies.

"What is a watch going to help with?" Bone complained. "It's just a watch."

Another peck from the raven urged the unicorn onward, and he once again tried to get them to move. He pushed them, pulled them, shook them and poked them. He asked for them to stand and he shouted for them to get up. He weakly punched them for not getting up and gave in to his frustrations, sitting once more on the ground.

"Alright, if this doesn't work, then I'm doomed to bringing back thief birds for the rest of my life." Bone sighed. One last time, he tried to affect as much of the pile as he could, wishing they would just get up and help him search for his parents and the rest of the town, that they would help keep him safe, that they would stop being dead. He shut his eyes in concentration and focused intensely on the dead, forcing his thoughts to somehow be made reality.

Much to his surprise and delight, they were.

The bodies shifted, they molted. The griffons began falling apart just as the raven had. Feathers became ash and fell down to the corpses below. Flesh melted and turned to grey dust. One by one, bodies began to shake off what remained of their skin and muscle into the growing mound of soot and ash beneath them, prying themselves from the other bodies and standing aside from another. Pegasus, Griffons, Diamond Dogs, Earth Ponies and Unicorns all in skeleton form and surrounding Bone like a small army.

The foal was wide eyed in terror, frozen in place from what he was seeing. He knew he had brought the bird back of course, but this was on a whole new level. He thought he should probably see how many of each he had, but at the same time he was more concerned if they were about to tear into him just as his raven had torn their own bodies to shreds just moments ago.

"Uh... friends?" Bone offered, sticking a hoof out and very anxiously smiling towards them. He couldn't tell if they were smiling back as they had no lips, but judging from their silent stares and passive stance he assumed they would play nice. "Okay then," He added, slowly lowering his hoof to the ground and doing his best to maintain a neutral expression. "So... you're all dead and I brought you back. I think." Scratching the side of his eye, Bone Marrow was at a loss for words.

All the skeletons in front of him simply stood there, waiting and watching.

"Can you look the other way for a second? You're kind of creeping me out..." Bone asked. He had expected them to continue staring at him like his raven would, but they immediately obeyed his command. They turned on their paws, hooves or claws to face away from Bone in a semi-circle formation with him at the center. Finding his mouth suddenly dry, Bone gulped in reaction to both the situation he found himself in as well as his need for a drink.

"Maybe this is why the adults drink so much cider. If any of their special talents are as scary as this, no wonder they get nervous around foals; they could have anything!" Bone reasoned excitedly to himself. He was grown up now! The revelation had once again occurred that this confirmed he had his cutie mark now, which made him better than a blank flank. He was pretty sure that nopony else could make a group of bodies move like this, but at the same time he was very glad that his special talent was nothing as boring as wielding a sword or throwing fireballs. "The royal guard are going to be so happy when they get back from training! They'll have a whole bunch of new friends to practice with, and all of these bandits can actually help them instead of being mean!"

After a moment's realization, Bone was reminded that he hadn't seen the Diamond Dogs or anypony else for that matter for a long time. Night had snuck up on him as he saw the moon making its steady advance overhead. To his surprise, there was a face on the moon now. "Whoa." Bone gasped as a smile spread on his face. "That's so cool! Thanks Princess Luna!"

After doing his best to fall asleep inside of the town hall, since it was night time, Bone Marrow found it was impossible to do so. The town hall was filled with skeletons of every kind along with his raven sitting near his head. The town was still missing along with his parents, and the Diamond Dogs were still nowhere to be seen. He could keep sitting on his hooves or he could use his new friends to go and find his parents, and he decided to do just that.

"Hey, everypony!" Bone called out, attracting the horde of skeleton's attention. "We're gonna find everypony else, okay! Don't hurt anypony, just the Diamond Dogs. They're really mean and nopony likes them."

To his disappointment, the skeletons remained where they were. Staring at him. Silently.

"Oh come on! Follow me, and do what I say, okay?" Bone ordered, pushing away the rug he had wrapped around himself like a blanket in order to sleep. "We're gonna go into the mines, find my family and friends, then we're gonna kick the Diamond Dogs out of town."

Very confident in his ability, Bone took his father's pocket watch and clipped it around his neck as a good luck charm. Taking the lead and marching out of the Town Hall, he was happy to see his band of skeletons following after him. When the raven landed on his head again, a thought occurred to him.

"I should really name you, shouldn't I? I mean, you're the first thing I brought back... that sounds so weird. I'm talking about bringing things back to life like its normal now," Bone digressed. "Anyway! I should find a name for you, and I think we can find more friends to help us look, don't you think?"

The raven nodded in agreement, and the two spent another indeterminate amount of time scouring the small town of Scoria for the dead. Bone's 'friends' helped pile the dead at the intersection once more, soon finding a great many bodies than he had originally assumed there to be. As they flew in he started to count, eventually reaching a final total of thirty earth ponies, five unicorns, seven pegasus, ten griffons and four Diamond Dogs including the skeletons he already had.

"Wow." Bone Marrow blinked, taking in the sight of dead and recently-un-dead-ed. "Well, guess there's no time like the... after-present?"

Looking amongst the army of skeletons, Bone was somewhat deflated by the fact that none of them had an ability to appreciate his sense of humor. Or laugh, for that matter. "I thought it was funny. After-life, After-present, cause you're all not really dead... never mind."

The Mines of Scoria

View Online

"Alright every pony," Bone Marrow announced while standing atop the steps leading to the town hall, "We all have to work together and make sure not to scare any pony else with all of the... bone-ness you have."

Scratching his chin, Bone Marrow thought of ways that he would be able to explain all of this to his parents. He could just say it was normal because of his cutie mark, but at the same time Bone Marrow knew of nopony else that actually had a talent anywhere similar to his. Perhaps it was more of a rare occupation; an even fancier cutie mark than normal?

Sighing after a deep breath, Bone looked to the silent audience of skeletons that stood around him. If he could bring anypony or anything back from the dead as a bunch of bones... did that mean they didn't have to eat anymore? Bone certainly hoped not. He couldn't afford to get sandwiches for all of these skeletons! If that's even what skeletons liked, that is. Maybe they liked strange things, like salami?

"Well," Bone blinked in thought, "Maybe I should find some clothes for all of you? I don't think that skeletons get cold or anything, but it would look really neat if you all had hooded capes and stuff."

Taking a moment to imagine the implications of ponies he knew seeing a dark hooded army of skeletons approaching them, Bone had second thoughts.

"Never mind. Let's just figure out how I can get you to move around places, okay?" Bone stated aloud. Making his way down the steps to stand in front of the mob, Bone Marrow attempted to stand tall enough that the griffons and Diamond Dog skeletons in the back were able to see him.

"Listen up!" Bone shouted in his shrill foal voice, "My parents are in the mines of Scoria, the town that you're all in." Pointing awkwardly with his front hoof towards the general direction of the mines, the skeletons followed his hoof. "I need your help in getting all the living ponies out of the mines and getting rid of all the bandits and bad creatures that are holding my parents and friends, and doing mean things to them!"

Nearly falling on his backside, Bone Marrow righted himself to all fours. A small cloud of dust whisked away with the wind on his landing, drawing attention to the town itself. Creaking and broken, empty of life aside from Bone Marrow himself.

"Will you all help me?" Bone loudly asked the group of skeletons, and their attention was drawn to him once more. The foal looked between the rows of skeletons, all silently staring back at him. Scrunching his lips and becoming annoyed, Bone thought hard on what would allow him to convince all these skeletons to listen to him.

He had wrapped his father's pocket watch in magic when the raven had resurrected, and he had also used the pocket watch to make all of these skeletons. Did he simply have to use magic, or was it all the pocket watch's doing?

Closing his eyes and biting his lips in concentration, Bone Marrow's horn began to glow a bright blue. Trying to feel for where the skeletons were, Bone felt multiple bodies in his way. Opening his eyes to see what was the matter, he noticed that a few skeletons aglow with his magic, their eyes lighting up in blue color. Squinting at the skeletons, he noticed that they seemed far more animated than before. A griffon was examining it's claws and wings, two ponies were looking at each other with what seemed to be inexpressive surprise, their mouths clattering and clacking as jaws snapped shut.

Putting more effort into his magic, Bone Marrow closed his eyes and strained to find more bodies to bar the path of his magics. Like an ever expanding circle, more and more skeletons came to life and clattered, bumping into another and looking around aimlessly. With a sharp exhale, Bone Marrow opened his eyes to the full group of skeletons being fully animated. The first few that he had given magic seemed to notice him for the first time, walking closer to him cautiously.

"Whoa! Stay back a bit." Bone Marrow quickly pleaded, taking a step backward of his own. The skeletons performed the same, keeping their distance and giving him sideways stares. "Just, help me figure all of this out, okay?"

The skeletons seemed confused from what the foal could understand. Some were walking around the blood stained dirt piles of equipment that now lay strewn about with ash. To his surprise, the skeletons began arming themselves.

"Does this mean you're gonna help me?" Bone Marrow asked while full of hope. "If you are, that means we can save my parents!"

The skeletons stopped in their tracks in order to look at the white foal with big blue eyes smiling at them. Looking between themselves, the skeletons continued equipping themselves with not only weapons, but also the old damaged armoring that they had previously died in. When all was accomplished and the skeletons were re-assembled, Bone Marrow now stood in front of a small garrison of skeletons armed to the bone with maces, swords and bows.

Curiously absent until now, Bone Marrow realized that his raven had been missing for his entire learning experience. His head was missing the avian companion and caused Bone to worry. "One second, every pony! I have to find my raven." he explained, turning around to head inside of the town hall.

Greeted by the familiar dusty interior, Bone noticed a single sunbeam of light coming from the ceiling to dramatically come to rest on a pile of bones. "Oh no!" Bone worried, running on his tiny hooves towards the remains of his avian friend. "Come on, we were getting along!"

Scooping the bones in his hooves, Bone realized that he might be able to bring it back. Maybe it fell apart because he didn't give it any magic? It was a possibility, but now he needed to test the theory. Closing his eyes and focusing his magic forward, Bone Marrow felt the tiny body in his hooves twitch. Opening his eyes, he was rewarded with his friend once again staring at him.

"Sorry about that!" Bone apologized with a nervous smile. "Here, have some of this." Bone added, sending a second wave of magic to the bird. Now the bird's eyes glowed blue, and it too became even more animated than before. Hopping along his body, the bird came to rest atop his head and nestled into his mane.

"You know what?" Bone declared, "I've got a name for you."

The bird's neck craned down to stare at Bone, tilting sideways in curiosity.

"From now on, you'll be known as Toothpick!" Bone excitedly announced, his smile wide.

True to name, Toothpick pecked Bone's tooth, causing him to yelp in surprise and cover his mouth. "Don't do that!"

Later in the day with the sun overhead, Bone stood alongside his newly befriended skeleton army of nearly sixty in total. Feeling safer from being surrounded by skeletons, Bone was able to venture further away from the town hall and came across more piles of dead, which he soon granted life anew as skeletons. To his relief, the older skeletons seemed to chatter and clink together in a way that brought the new skeletons up to speed with what was happening.

Bone Marrow had been waiting for what seemed like eternity to get a cutie mark, and now he was given the best one of all! The raven's skull didn't mean anything bad, on the contrary, it meant that his special talent was giving anypony a second chance at life. Re-dumb-shin or something similar. He was certain he had heard the word before, and it sounded important.

The sound of the skeletons behind him wasn't quite marching like it was with the royal guard, more of a hobbling mess that reminded him of the town when it was happier. Ponies walking around, going to places where they needed to be, except in this case all of the skeletons followed behind him in lines five deep and six across.

It wasn't the ability to throw fireballs, or to wield a sword, but Bone didn't have to do any of that now. He had as many friends as he could want, so long as they used to be bad. He had thought about bringing back his old cat but didn't feel fully comfortable with the idea.

Marching the group to the front of the mines, Bone Marrow was confronted by a grisly sight. A Diamond Dog sentry had been torn messily in half, strands of gore spattering the dusty ground while the torso still clutched onto a spear in a death grip. Being unsettled by the scene, Bone took a step back in order to take a deep breath.

"Okay, that's a mixed sign..." Bone said to himself, "On one hoof, one less diamond dog. On the other hoof, something must have killed him, right?"

Looking between his skeletons and the corpse, Bone gathered himself and shrugged. "Well, I guess one more wouldn't hurt, right?"

From the entrance of the mine and a few minutes past it, Bone marrow heard nothing but the steady advance of his skeletons in the echoing caverns. Pick axes lay scattered on the ground as if abandoned in a rush and thin gashes were cut into the wooden support beams overhead. The tunnels were only wide enough for three ponies across, and the skeletons had moved to accommodate the change. It was like they had tuned in to what Bone was feeling, as every unexpected noise caused the skeletons to halt when he did.

Rats, dripping water from overhead, noises that were difficult to make out coming from ahead, all served to unnerve Bone Marrow. He wasn't allowed in the mines, and he was becoming worried that he would get lost.

"I'm sure some pony will know the way out, right?" Bone unconvincingly assured himself. "They can't all just wander in here every day to get lost. That wouldn't work at all."

The dark halls were once lit by torches and lanterns, though most of those devices were broken or snapped on the ground. The glowing blue of the skeletons behind Bone made it far easier to see in what would have been pure darkness. The foal debated internally if it would be a good idea to shout for his parents or friends so they could find him, yet at the same time that might put them in danger. He really had no idea what was going on with the Diamond Dogs or anypony else for that matter.

Twisting tunnels and smelly earth were all that Bone Marrow could sense for what seemed to be hours in his steady advance through the mines of Scoria. He was beginning to lose hope that anything was left in the mines, or that perhaps he had been forgotten and the Diamond Dogs had taken his parents to some far away place when they were finished mining.

Walking into a large circular room with a wooden crane in the center, Bone decided to take a break. "All this walking and nopony around. Either we've been going in circles or there's nopony here." Bone pouted.

Looking down into the pit, Bone thought he saw something sparkling. Squinting and looking closer, he realized that a necklace of some kind was reflecting the blue glow of the skeletons behind him. Reaching out with his magic, Bone Marrow levitated the necklace into his outstretched hooves. A small silver heart was in the center of the chain with a small button on the side. Clicking the heart open, a name was engraved within.

Silver Lining

Unfamiliar with the name, Bone Marrow carefully hopped into the pit to look for other clues. Unfortunately he found far more than he had hoped. His landing was softened by the wet crunch of a skull caving in. Reeling back immediately and stumbling over another body, Bone Marrow soon found himself face to face with a pony he was familiar with. The Town Mayor.

"Aaah!" Bone Marrow shrieked, fumbling as quickly as he could away from the bleeding corpse. With his fear grew the blue glow, his horn reacting instinctively to light the surrounding bodies. The baker, the mailpony, the town toolmaker, the list went on and on. He had stumbled into a mass grave of everypony he had ever known in this pit, and he wanted nothing more than to get out of it.

"Get me out!" Bone Marrow yelled, no sooner had the words left his lips did a boned griffon claw reach down to pluck him out and set him down next to the edge. Part of him wanted to shut his eyes against what he was seeing, and the other desperately searched to either find his parents, or make certain they hadn't been in the pile. Eyes darting all around, they eventually locked on a familiar face.

A set of familiar faces, actually. His father and mother. Bone Marrow stood in shock, his body feeling cold. His eyes welled with tears as his mind tried to make sense of what he was seeing in front of him. Did the bandits not want them anymore? Did they do something wrong, or were they bored?

His eyes widening further, Bone Marrow came to a different conclusion. Perhaps they were dead because he wished for the Diamond Dogs to leave? They were certainly no longer around, and nothing remained here to cause them to return.

"Captain, I think I see something up ahead!" A voice called out, echoing through the tunnels to Bone Marrow's ear. Thank Celestia, Bone Marrow thought, It sounded like the royal guard! He would be able to explain everything to them and they would make everything better. They were the guard, Princess Celestia's finest!

The sound of clanking plate armor and uniform marching drew closer with Bone Marrow rushing to greet them. All other concerns had vanished from his mind at this point. If he could speak with the guard, he might somehow get his parents back. Not as skeletons, but really alive. Flesh and blood! They fixed his injuries when he scraped a knee with their magic, and he had seen really bad training injuries, so why wouldn't they be able to fix this? It all seemed perfectly reasonable to the foal, and he eagerly awaited his meeting with the captain.

"By the grace of Celestia!" A guard sputtered, drawing his sword. "Skeletons!"

Skidding to a stop, Bone Marrow's eyes went wide. He had completely forgotten about the skeletons and how the guard would react to them. "Wait!" The foal cried out, "They're nice!"

The guard looked down at Bone Marrow, and then up to the wall of death steadily advancing towards him, armed with maces, swords and bows.

"Fall back! Necromancer!"

"Necromancer!" Additional shouts rang out, from the first guard all the way to the back of the line from beyond Bone Marrow's sight. "Surround it!"

"The Shining Crown shields us from evil!" The guards loudly replied in union, the sound of swords unsheathing and spells being spoken overwhelming Bone Marrow's senses. Everything was going wrong! They guard were supposed to help, couldn't he just explain this?

"Wait! Don't hurt them!" Bone Marrow shouted as his skeletons rushed past. Certainly Bone Marrow had felt threatened, and unbeknownst to the foal, the skeletons under his command sought to correct that feeling by removing anything that was causing the threat.

Bone Marrow backed away from the wall of guards and skeletons advancing on one another, finding himself next to the mass grave of his loved ones as blue eyed skeletons fought the shining gold of the royal guard on all sides. No room for maneuvering, no space for tactics. It was a straight brawl, and to his dismay, more than a few cries of pain and anguish sounded around him from a guard being injured or killed in the few seconds of engagement.

"Stop fighting!" Bone Marrow shouted. Only his skeletons obeyed, and one by one they were hastily cut down and scattered to the floor as they fell apart. Surrounded on all sides, Bone Marrow was cornered at the edge of the mass grave.

"Vile Necromancer!" The guard captain announced. "It must have been you that killed these towns folk, no matter your young age. These are dark magics, banned by the Shining Crown!"

"But I didn't kill anypony!" Bone Marrow protested, making an advance toward the captain with tears in his eyes from all that had happened now overwhelming him. "I didn't do it!"

"No lies, Necromancer! It is time for your end!" The Captain shouted. "Glory to the Shining Crown!"

Bone Marrow saw blades raise all around him, the points that he once thought impressive now terrified him. He had seen how the blades cleaved through bone just moments ago, and he had no hope for his ability to survive what was coming.

Time seemed to slow as the blades descended on him, the captain's blade going straight for the center of his face. Guards on the side aimed for his lungs, and a pole-axe descended on his spine.

"You fools!" A voice called out before the moment of impact. Lances of pain shot through Bone Marrow's small body as he felt parts of him separate. His eyes were split by the golden blade of the captain through the center of his head, his ribs shattered and splintered by the guards next to him. He felt his spine crumple as his body dropped to the floor, gore spilling from his belly as the blade of the axe exited the other side of him.

"Don't kill the necromancer!" The voice shouted as a blurred figure rounded the corner. Bone Marrow's vision began to shift into a bright blue, and he couldn't make out a single shape or figure individually.

"Get out!" The voice hissed, shoving a nearby guard. "Get out, get out, get out!"

Everything flashed blue, and Bone Marrow was dead.

Then, to his surprise, he was no longer dead. The weapons that had killed him lay around his body, and he was covered in blood. Touching his face, Bone marrow noticed that it was fully intact. His sides were fine, and his organs were exactly where they should have been. Looking around, the foal noticed that all of the guards had vanished. The bones of his old skeletons were missing. His attention flipped to the bottom of the pit, and he noticed that nothing aside from ash remained. Bone Marrow was beyond confused, though his swirling mind was interrupted by a familiar voice.


The shaking foal swiveled around quickly to face the most golden royal guard he had ever seen. Looking up at the stallion's cautious expression, Bone was greeted by a seemingly kind face with green eyes. A blonde mane complemented the copper colored body of the guard, but the foal was not convinced of any well wishes from him.

"Stay away from me!" Bone shouted, backing around the lip of the once filled mass grave.

"Be still!" The guard loudly commanded, and Bone Marrow found his legs would no longer obey him. "I will not harm you, Necromancer. Listen to me."

Bone tried to speak but any attempt only came out as gibberish or mumbles. Now he was even more confused.

"The Royal Guard here obey my command. I was not expecting to find a pony like you in this town, and did not lead the investigation into the mines. Reports of smoke called our attention away from the capitol, only to find it in ruin. Is this your doing? Speak truthfully."

"No!" Bone blurted. "It was the Diamond Dogs!"

The stallion grumbled. "Leave the dead where they lay, Necromancer, and follow me."

"Your guards are just going to kill me again! Wait, how am I even alive? I felt a sword go through my face!" Bone both protested and realized. "I shouldn't be alive! I felt myself die!"

"You are a necromancer, foal. You cannot die." Was the guard's ominous reply.

"Wait, how do you know that? Does some pony else have my special talent?" Bone wondered aloud.

"I am a Knight of Celestia, a crusader of all that is right in this world. It is my charge to know all about the evils I face in my defense of Equestria, your existence is prime among them." The Crusader replied.

"What's your name?" Bone asked.

"Deus Vult."

Getting Lost and Found

View Online

"It is my charge to know all about the evils I face in my defense of Equestria, your existence is prime among them."

Remembering these words from the crusader in front of him, now turning his back after gesturing for him to walk ahead, gave Bone Marrow pause. The young necromancer didn't consider anything he had done to be evil. His special talent was giving ponies and griffons and even Diamond Dogs a second chance at life! What could possibly be evil about that?

Time seemed to slow as he thought quickly over what might happen to him, given his recent experience with death at the hooves of the Royal Guard. They considered all threats towards Equestria to be evil, and the most likely punishment for being evil was being frozen in stone or being killed outright, or an even worse experience of being jailed for who knew how long. Add to that the fact that Bone Marrow could supposedly not die if the crusader was to be believed, it presented the possibility that he would be forever jailed.

Bone Marrow's face scrunched in disgust at the thought of that, his eyes flicking to his left and right. One of these halls would allow him to run away from the guard. He had been lost in them just moments before, and he lived in the town. These guards didn't even seem to be the same ones that were originally stationed here in the town, considering they all jumped on him without a second's reservation.

"I don't have all day, necromancer." The Royal Guard captain grumbled. Bone doubted that the guard's name really was Deus Vult anyway. What kind of pony gets a name like that? It's just silly. "Are you even listening to me?"

"Uh, yeah!" Bone Marrow blurted out. "I'll be right there."

The guard's eyes became slits of annoyance, "Get in front of me, necromancer, or we'll drag you back to Canterlot."

Yes, this was definitely not a pony that Bone Marrow wanted to travel with. The threats and grumpyness of the Royal in general made Bone very uneasy, not to mention the whole death thing that happened. Instead of following, Bone decided the best thing to do for his immediate self preservation would be to run in the opposite direction. Hopping over the pit of ash that contained the remains of his friends and family, Bone Marrow continued down a winding passageway of dirt and wooden support beams, kicking up dust and displacing burnt out lanterns.

"After him!" Bone could hear the Royal shout in the growing distance behind him. "Don't let him escape!"

Thinking on his hooves, Bone did his best to come up with a plan. He would have to find some way out of the caves, but as far as he knew there was only a single entrance and exit. All the guards would have to do would be to wait for him at the entrance and the chase would be over. He wasn't certain if there had been a cave in previously, or if anypony had died in it, so that plan was gone as soon as it arrived in his head. He could always start digging, but that would get nowhere fast.

Bone grumbled to himself, breaths of exertion exiting his small muzzle as his hooves carried him around the tunnels of Scoria. He was probably lost by now, he admitted to himself. He didn't know his way around to begin with, and now it was just a worse case of before. On second thought, he realized he should have waited to escape from the guard after leaving the cave because he would've been outside at the very least.

Taking a moment to catch his breath and rest against a pillar of old wood, Bone realized something. He could see just fine in the dark, but he had no idea why. Bringing his hooves close to his face, he noticed a faint glow of blue on them. Clacking them together to dust them off, only to remember that he was trying to hide and that making noise is a terrible thing to do when one is hiding, Bone paused for several minutes to listen to anypony that might be trying to follow him. After hearing no clattering of plate armor or a shouting of orders, Bone went back to looking at his hooves.

After being dumbfounded for a solid seven minutes about why he could see in the dark now, he realized that the glowing blue wasn't some mystical force dancing around on his hooves, but it was actually coming from his eyes. Maybe dying had its advantages? Well, there was only one way to test if that theory was true and Bone Marrow wasn't enthusiastic about his chances of self impalement on a guard's spear being any fun.

Deciding it was far more sensible to avoid dying repeatedly, as dying is no fun at all, Bone Marrow got back to standing on his small hooves and checked both ways of the tunnel he was in. He then blinked, discovering that the rules of crossing a street might not apply in a tunnel, and chose to go along the path to his right.

Bone thought of his family, and the fact that they had been so suddenly taken away from him in the span of a few days. He also reminded himself that he was able to raise the dead, at least if they had a skeleton. Thinking more deeply on that fact, Bone Marrow came to the conclusion that if he could raise the dead, and the dead he raised needed a skeleton, then perhaps he could find some way to gather enough skeletons to raise his family and friends back from the dead.

No, he shook his head in thought, that wouldn't work at all. They wouldn't be the same, just like the bandits he had raised hadn't been very thieving or dastardly when he returned them to life. At best they would be scared and confused in a skeleton that wasn't even theirs to begin with. Besides, where would he find a bunch of skeletons just laying around, not being...

The graveyard. That's where a pony would find a bunch of skeletons just laying around. Of course! Bone Marrow was dumbfounded that he hadn't thought of that sooner, but at the same time he was more concerned with finding his family than finding skeletons. Scratching his fuzzy chin, Bone Marrow continued to ponder the new possibilities his special talent and cutie mark provided.

"What could I do with a bunch of skeletons?" Bone Marrow wondered aloud, his voice carrying through the tunnels. "I could have them pick apples..." He presented, before shooting down his own idea, "Nah, that would get boring really fast." The foal then took a deep breath and narrowed his eyes in concentration at the path ahead, turning around a corner. "Oh, I know, maybe I could open up a soup kitchen!" Bone Marrow thought on the idea for a moment, and then sighed with disappointment. "No, that wouldn't work at all..."

Wandering the tunnels of Scoria, pondering everything related to skeletons that he could, Bone Marrow got himself lost and re-lost probably a dozen times before he even realized he was walking in circles. Looking all around him and then to the floor, he noticed hoof prints that were the same size as his own in five separate lines leading in each direction. There was even a doodled carving of a smiley face on the wall from when he got bored of walking.

"Well," Bone Marrow grumbled to himself, "This is working out. At this rate I'm going to get hungry before I even find my way back to the pit, wherever that is."

Checking his mane, he then noticed that Toothpick was missing. Come to think of it, Bone Marrow realized, he probably disintegrated the bird when he was un-deadifying himself, however that worked. All the other bones and dead bodies were turned to ash, so why not Toothpick?

Sighing with renewed disappointment, Bone Marrow continued wandering onwards. His ears swiveled around searching for any kind of sound that he would be able to hear, now actively looking for a wandering Royal Guard just for the sake of getting out of the tunnels.

"Hello?" Bone called out into the empty tunnels. "I got lost!"

After waiting a moment, there was no reply but his own echoing voice. "Darn."

Bone Marrow had spent what felt like forever wandering the mines of Scoria, always seeming to retrace his steps and get perpetually lost. He had passed the time with singing in hopes that somepony might discover him and help him out, but he soon grew tired of his throat hurting from all the gibberish singing that he was doing and opted to remain silent. He tried finding something to tie to his hooves to make more noise when he walked instead, but grew tired of that as well when it was just more work with the same result. At first he was worried that he hadn't been hungry in a while, or thirsty for that matter, but he figure it was just part of his cutie mark doing cool things. After all, some ponies could do all kinds of things they couldn't do before after they got their cutie mark, so why not him?

Eventually, Bone Marrow decided that it would be easier to sit in one place since he was always getting lost. Maybe nopony was finding him because they were checking places he had just been? If the guard was searching for him and he stayed in one spot, then they'd find him eventually, right? It couldn't take that long if he just laid down and had a quick nap after all.

Some unknown amount of time later, Bone Marrow's ears twitched at the sound of an noise. Finally! Bone rejoiced internally, picking up his head with some effort to look at the newcomers. They were both covered in dirt and mud, which Bone found odd. There hadn't been any rain clouds the day before, so why were these two wet?

"This is certainly the place?" One whispered while looking around. The front part of their muzzle stood out from their hood and their lips were curled in annoyance. "This is a dreadful pile of ash, not the lair of an evil necromancer."

'Oh great,' thought Bone Marrow, 'More ponies that think I'm evil.'

"I can sense their presence. The air is colder than it was before, and our breath has become chilled." Replied the deeper toned voice of the second figure.

"You can't sense their presence. I don't believe that for a second." The first grumbled, turning away from the second. "You and your mumbo-jumbo about necromancers is getting me all worked up for nothing."

It wasn't until now that Bone Marrow noticed the gentle flickering flame of a lantern between the two sitting on the ground. There were also saddlebags filled with various things that were mostly uninteresting to the young foal. What was interesting, however, was the sealed jar of pears that was poking its head from the top of the second figure's bags.

Biting his lips and looking between the two quietly bickering ponies, Bone Marrow debated if his magic was strong enough to actually lift the filled jar of wonderful food to himself. Soon after debating that within his head, he realized that he would be stealing from the two. Bone Marrow decided that he wouldn't be a bad pony no matter how much he wanted food, though the thought was still tempting.

"Hey... what are those blue glowing lights over there?" The first figure asked, pointing directly at Bone Marrow.

Bone's first reaction was to panic and move quickly away from the corner so he could gain distance between himself and the two figures. His second reaction was the realization that he could no longer move his body. A field of yellow energy was encompassing Bone's body!

"I see you, whatever you are." The first figure continued, slowly standing up from his place and keeping his hoof leveled at Bone. "No running away for you now!"

"You gamble with forces beyond your understanding." The second figure scolded, knocking the first figure's hoof to the floor. "Be still."

With the hoof pointing to the floor, Bone Marrow found that he was able to move again and quickly slinked further into the shadows.

"Thing is giving me the creeps. You sure there's a necromancer here?" The first figure asked, keeping an eye on Bone Marrow while sitting down again. "I don't want to stick around here longer than we have to."

The second figure then turned directly toward Bone, revealing the front of his striped black and white muzzle. After a long pause of staring between Bone Marrow and the second figure, the hooded one gave a smile.

"The floating eyes are not a thing, they are a somepony." He stated simply, standing on his hooves. "Somepony we are searching for, though unexpected in result."

The first's eyes narrowed. "What are you even talking about? You Zebras are all alike with your weird talking and metaphors and whatnot."

Bone was growing increasingly worried the closer the 'Zebra' walked towards him. He could now see the bottoms of the second figures hooves with stripes as well, leading up their legs. Their mane was a strange Mohawk that kept the top of his hood above his face along with the many rings of metal that decorated his frame.

"Get away from that thing, its probably gonna eat you." The first warned, standing up and bringing the lantern with him to join his Zebra ally.

"Bring the light, and we will see who is right." The zebra countered, a smug grin across his face as he stood a few paces away from Bone.

"Oh really?" The first challenged, now in sight and quickly revealing them-self to be a unicorn pony. "That sounds like a bet!"

Bone Marrow didn't really know why he hadn't run off already, yet something about this 'zebra' was comforting to him. Perhaps the calm tone of his voice or his non threatening movements? He couldn't decide, and it was already pointless to guess any longer when Bone realized he was being picked up by the unicorn's yellow magic.

"Well, if that ain't the most emaciated foal I've ever laid eyes on." The first mused with a low whistle. After a moment he turned to the zebra. "How come his eyes look like there's little blue skulls in them?"

"It is the mark of a Necromancer. To be so young and to have perished already..." The zebra explained with a pitying sigh. "Well, we had best feed the poor foal before it dies again, or we will die along with it."

"W-what!?" The unicorn blurted. "What's that mean?"

"Uh..." Bone Marrow wheezed. After his long period of not speaking, he found that his voice needed some warming up. "Can I be let-" He began to ask before coughing out a cloud of dust, "-let down?"

The unicorn looked to his zebra partner. "If I do, it's not gonna run off, is it?"

"I'm a he," Bone grumbled with a voice of sand paper, "And my name is Bone Marrow!"

The unicorn's left brow raised with surprise. "Bone Marrow? You're that necromancer? Killed their entire village single hoofed? Hoo-wee the bounty on you is gonna make this all worthwhile."

"I didn't kill anypony!" Bone wheezed before being placed on the ground next to the duo's bags. Lifting his head with some effort, he noticed that either his body had shrunken while he wandered, or bags were getting really big all of a sudden.

"How long have you been here, Bone Marrow?" The zebra asked. "How long have you wandered these tunnels?"

"Uh... I dunno?" Bone replied honestly. "I tried calling out to anypony to see if they'd find me, and then I tried singing..." he paused, rubbing his throat from the pain of speaking before continuing, "At least before you two came along."

"When did you get lost?" The unicorn asked, now suddenly interested in conversation after picking out a jar of beans from his bag, opening the lid and allowing the cold greasiness to plop into his mouth. Chewing with pockets of surviving beans tucked away in the sides of his mouth, the unicorn added, "Must-a been wandering a long time if we're the first two you've seen."

Bone was slightly revolted by the unicorn's behavior, turning his head away to look at the zebra instead. "Well, the Royal Guard showed up after I went into the caves. I found all my friends and my... my parents in a pit. Then the Royal Guard charged down and started attacking myself and my skeletons. I didn't want anypony else to get hurt so I told my skeletons to stop, and then they tried to kill me afterwards."

Bone could still hear the noisy mess of the unicorn chewing and opted to fold his ears downward to hopefully dampen the noise. A moment later, the jar of peaches that he had been eyeing was placed in front of his muzzle causing Bone to perk up with excitement. Looking up at who had given him the jar, he discovered the zebra giving him a knowing wink.

"Conserve your strength, young Bone Marrow. There is a long journey ahead of you." The zebra advised, opening the lid for him. "Many whom you encounter will not be so generous as us, and you must always remember that."

"Wait," The unicorn blurted with a bit of bean flying from his mouth, "We're not collectin' the bounty?"

The zebra's soft smile soon became twisted as he looked down on Bone Marrow. "I never said that."

Ashes to Ashes

View Online

"Huh?" Inquired Bone Marrow, "What's a bounty?"

The zebra and unicorn had been taking stock of what rations and other travelling supplies they had left when the question suddenly arose. The two looked to each other with surprise before their attention shifted to the emaciated foal nearby. A moment of indecision took over as they moved away from Bone Marrow to whisper in discussion.

"What do we tell 'em?" The unicorn nervously asked in a conspiratorial hush. "He is a necromancer after all; don't want him to get the idea that we're going to be a threat or he might turn us into skeletons!"

The bejeweled zebra glanced at the unmoving foal in the dirt of the tunnel nearby before covering the side of his mouth to reply, "We must lie, for today is not the day to die."

The unicorn scoffed quietly, "Can you stop it with that rhyming? This is serious!"

Blinking twice in realization, the zebra grumbled, "It is the way of speaking where I am from, I have told you this several times."

The two bounty hunters continued bickering between themselves for several more minutes before coming to an agreed upon answer to the foal's simple question.

"Ya see," began the nervous unicorn, "A bounty is like a... a 'Lost and Found' advertisement for ponies. We're bounty hunters, and that means we go out and find missing ponies to bring 'em to whoever put up the paper."

Bone's eyes squinted with suspicion. "Who would look for me?" He pointed nearby to the hole filled with ash, "Everypony I know died over there in that pit."

The unicorn's lips scrunched back into his mouth in a vain attempt to metaphorically eat his words before they could be spoken. Looking rapidly between the foal and his zebra counterpart, he jabbed his head towards the small necromancer as if to beckon a reply in his stead lest he say something else that would get them both killed from the expected threat Bone Marrow represented.

"A... distant relative of yours posted the request." The zebra carefully replied, his face a mask of calm while he looked expectantly at the foal hoping he would accept the lie as is. "If we do not move now, I fear she may have gone looking elsewhere."

Attempting to stand on his hooves proved more difficult than Bone Marrow had been expecting, the effort causing his legs to buckle as he fell to the floor in a small puff of dust. The foal's raspy grumbling announced his frustration. Lifting his shaky head, the foal looked slowly between the two bounty hunters.

"Could..." he began with a pout, "Could one of you put me on your back or something? My legs aren't working right."

The two hunters gave a sigh of relief, the Zebra moving closer to set down his saddlebags. "You should be small enough to fit inside of this, though if you feel ill or hungry you should let us know."

"Yeah, we get you able to move, the sooner we can be out of this creepy cave. How's that sound, uh... friend?" The unicorn added with an overly eager smile.

The bag was indeed large, as his now thin and nearly skeletal body was dwarfed by the cotton satchel. Attempting to climb into the bag quickly proved futile as his limbs no longer had the strength to pull himself into it, leading the zebra to stand on his hind legs in order to pick up the frail necromancer and place him in the bags. An unbuttoned flap that normally secured the contents of the bag was draped over Bone's head, allowing him some cover from the rain that poured outside as well as any questioning ponies they may come across; the concealment giving some additional relief to the bounty hunters' need for secrecy and security, as well as the embarrassed Bone Marrow's sense of self respect.

More thankful to be finally leaving the cave than curious about what a bounty hunter actually did, seeing as if somepony lost a cat they wouldn't hire a cat hunter, Bone Marrow was delighted to feel the first drops of rain land on his muzzle that peeked from the satchel on the zebra's side. This elation was dimmed somewhat by the charred remains of his home town of Scoria as well as the signs that condemned the mine by order of the Royal Guard, barring entry for those not authorized by Princess Celestia herself.

The group made their way through the ghost town that once bustled with friendly ponies going about their daily lives, slipping down muddy inclines and leaping over puddles with a questionable depth. Passing buildings, Bone Marrow gave a bitter-sweet nostalgic commentary on the places he remembered.

"That store over on the left!" He pointed eagerly with a small hoof poking from the side of the zebra's bag, "That was the one Sour Dough used to run! All kinds of different breads, mostly local, but they were nice to let me sit around and enjoy the smells."

The tiny muzzle shifted along with the soaked top that rested on it, and a hoof soon pointed to another building. "That one was Matron Saint's orphanage. We never really had any orphaned foals, now that I think about it, but she was a nice pony anyways."

Shifting in the bag continued and another building was spotted, this time with far less excitement. "That... used to be my house." Bone paused for a moment, his hoof slowly retracting back into the bag. A muffled sigh came from within, "I liked living there."

The two bounty hunters shared a pained look of sympathy for the foal's plight before willing themselves to press onward. They had a bounty to collect, and they'd certainly heard more than one sad story from a pony before. It had never been a foal before of course, but the money they got from their work was usually enough to drown any sad feelings in alcohol later on.

Bone Marrow looked from the rear of the saddlebag as the town slowly shrank into the horizon. Burned out buildings that had once been colorful and full of cheer were now piles of soggy dust, melted nails, and wet charcoal for scavengers. The young foal gave one last look before hiding from the world; a look that ended with a whisper of, "Goodbye, Mom and Dad."

A few hours had passed since Bone Marrow stirred from his place within the saddlebag, the sun having shifted to a mid-day position of welcoming warmth to the soaked group. They now traveled through a forest that accompanied the sounds of singing birds, rustling leaves and pine needles, chittering squirrels and the occasional Deer-folk that had skittishly apologized for intruding on their pleasant walk before leaping away into the forest to leave the group alone once more.

"What are you going do with your share of the bounty?" The zebra asked with a raised eyebrow of interest, "Spend in all on alcohol and salt as you usually do?"

"Hey, I get some sandwiches in along with those other things too ya know," The unicorn quipped with a sly grin. "Nah, this one's gonna pay so much I might just retire. Ten thousand gold pieces for my share, ten thousand for yours? That's a whole load of gold and it doesn't look like I have the lifetime left to spend it all. Gotta settle down, spend it wisely, maybe start up a family." The unicorn looked to the ground ahead in contemplation for a moment before asking, "What are you gonna do with yours, buy a new village for your tribe?"

"My tribe is doing well, though I thank you for the consideration," The zebra replied with a sincere smile of his own. "I think that I should instead use the money I will earn to open a school for my kind, a place of deeper learning and understanding between ponies and zebra; If such a thing is even possible."

Bone Marrow had been awoken by the two hunter's conversation and was now listening in as well as the cotton bag's insulation would allow.

"Open up a university with ten thousand gold pieces?" The unicorn asked with some skepticism, "That seems like you're going to need more than that to get it started. Would your school have any income?"

"I had considered the price of admission to be a limiting factor, but I suppose students could pay in different ways, like discovering artifacts that would allow for a museum to open as well," The zebra mused. "I am certain there are adventurous ponies without the nerves to visit the jungles themselves that would love to admire the treasures of far away lands kept in a place of safety, away from the dangers of actual exploration."

"What, a place where you just come to look at things?" The unicorn's eye twitched, "Sounds like a waste of time. Why not charge ponies to come have a look? That way you get the fancy nobles paying for the bragging rights to announce 'Lo, I hath seen the glory of this piece of fabric from yonder empire of the sand!" He added with an overly posh accent accompanied by grandiose hoof gestures and smug expressions.

A tiny white muzzle poked from the zebra's bag, "Does that mean we're going to Canterlot?" He asked with some excitement, "I've always wanted to visit there!"

The zebra replied with a disheartened sigh, "No, we are taking you to your relative in a nearby town. Last we were there, there had been some sort of commotion as we left." Turning his head to speak towards Bone Marrow, he added, "It shouldn't be much longer, actually. We've been travelling a few hours now so we should see them on the horizon at any moment."

"Are you really going to start a school, Mister Zebra?" Bone inquired, his muzzle moving along the lip of the saddlebag to face the bounty hunter. "Can I go?"

The zebra and unicorn both made an uneasy face as they considered the request as well as its likelihood of actually coming true. "Um... certainly. I will save a spot for you as soon as it opens."

"I've never been to a big school before!" Bone Marrow replied with excitement, "Will it have lots of ponies in it? My class only had one other pony in it aside from me, and she never talked much."

"Yes, many ponies will attend." The zebra replied with care, doing his best to keep the necromancer that was now attached to him via saddlebag as amicable as possible with his unwitting capture. "I think even Princess Celestia may visit, if she has the time."

"Oh! you could make it a cutie-mark school! Like, you only get in if you have a super cool cutie mark!" Bone exclaimed, "It'll be like a super fancy school where all the nice ponies hang out to learn about stuff, and there won't be any bullies allowed!"

This line of eager conversation between the emaciated necromancer and two bounty hunters continued, each hunter doing their best to keep the foal entertained until they reached their destination. Bone Marrow talked at length about a school of magic where young ponies could go to learn all the fancy stuff about magic and how it worked with their cutiemarks, if he could still become a royal guard despite that one time that they killed him, and if he could meet Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, as she was his favorite.

The group passed through forested areas thick with underbrush and fallen pine needles or leaves, dirty trails that were laced with gravel, and one particularly sneaky tree branch that caused the unicorn to trip and fall on his face, gaining a laugh from Bone Marrow and a chuckle from the zebra. Their trail continued over hills, across rivers and through a short cave, all ending with a final crest of a hill that stood in their way.

"You ready to meet that relative of yours?" The unicorn asked with a smile. "She should be just over this ridge here."

As they walked with anticipation, the bounty hunters for their fortune and Bone Marrow for his supposed 'relative', they were greeted by sounds none too pleasant. Clashing blades, whistling bolts and the unintelligible shouting of orders. The town below was in the beginning of a battle; ponies clad in purple armor squaring off against the Royal Guard, spears pointed toward each other as small skirmishes broke out in houses near their front line. A stool was even thrown through the window of a thatched roof cottage, crashing along with broken glass against the shield of the Royal Guard.

"Uh oh..." Bone Marrow commented meekly, "This doesn't look good."

"You see any torches?" The unicorn asked, scanning both sides of the battle. "Looks to me like they got a bunch of spears up front, poking at each other. Swordsponies are in the back, and they have some magic users away from the fighting wrapping up wounds."

"It seems as though our finder's fee may have to wait." The zebra grumbled. "We should not get involved; this is not our fight."

"But all those ponies are gonna get hurt!" Bone Marrow protested, doing his best to pull himself from the saddlebag. "We have to help them!"

This caused both hunters to look with confusion at the small necromancer in their group. "What are you gonna do," Asked the unicorn, "raise the dead and hurt even more ponies?"

Bone Marrow paused for a moment, his small hoof scratching his fuzzy chin. "Well... they're already dead, right?"

"You are not going to start another army of the undead, small necromancer." The zebra mandated.

"But ponies really don't like skeletons, even though I think they're kind of goofy. If we can get all of them scared enough and they run away, won't that save everypony?" Bone Marrow countered with a small stomp inside of the saddlebag, causing him to momentarily lose balance from the shifting sides of the bag.

"They're hardened warriors," the unicorn replied, "A few skeletons wont make them turn tail and run, especially not when they're guarding a town."

"Okay..." Bone Marrow replied, his voice trailing into thought. "But what if we help out the Royal Guard; what if I raise the dead... um... the purple ponies?"

"What is wrong with you?" The unicorn asked with incredulity in his voice, "You were all sad a moment ago about your town and parents, now you're wanting to raise an army to fight an army to help the ponies that killed you?"

"I'm not a bad pony!" Bone announced, "If I can show the Royal Guard that I'm not a bad pony, then they won't want to hurt me anymore, right? They only hurt me because they thought I killed everypony, at least I think that's why the killed me, so if I help them, then they'll help us find my relative!"

"I am not certain that is how this works, young necromancer." The zebra replied with calm. "I do know that charging into battle as you are will get yourself killed, and then everyone else in the town will die to bring you back to life."

"I don't have to fight, though!" Bone countered once more. "I just have to get near some of the dead and scare the purple ponies away."

"We are not going to help you raise an army of the dead." The zebra stated flatly. "You cannot convince us that it is a good idea."

"I'm going to agree on that," The unicorn added, "A bunch of skeletons is never a good idea."

"But-!" Bone Marrow protested before being cut off.

"There are no arguments you could present us that would be acceptable, small one." The zebra sternly replied. "We are going to wait for this conflict to conclude, and we will continue from that point onward."

"But ponies are going to die!" Bone continued, his small muzzle loudly announcing his displeasure with the idea of sitting around.

"You need to stay quiet." The zebra shushed with a hoof to Bone Marrow's mouth, "There may be scouts nearby that will hear us."

Grumbling and very upset, Bone Marrow retreated to the 'darkness' of the inner saddlebag, his eyes glowing enough to illuminate his seating arrangement.

The skirmishing and fighting continued between the two groups of soldiers, neither giving an inch in their siege of the town. A few small groups had been seen skirting around the walls of the settlement, only to be pelted with spells and crossbow bolts before retreating into the woods below. The town itself had been built on a hill overlooking a forest clearing. The nearby trees had been cut down in hasty preparations for the impending assault. With citizens to chop and the mages of the Royal Guard to assist, it was completed just in time for the assault. Gaps in the walls were blocked by small groups of guards holding spears, guarded by a dome shield of a mage to prevent projectiles or enemy spells from hitting the exposed royals as their spears poked out from the protective barrier, jabbing at enemies too bold or stupid to be cautious around such barricades.

"Why don't they just send some flyers in," the unicorn inquired, "They could shoot down on the purple ones and win this easy."

"Perhaps they have been injured by the purple force's substantial number of crossbows already." The zebra replied, watching the battle with interest. "We can only see what is not hidden by the walls, and all we have seen is a stalemate."

"Can I help now?" Bone Marrow asked hopefully.

"No." The bounty hunters replied seriously.

The battle continued well into the night, both sides fighting by the illumination of their group's spells and barriers. The bounty hunters and Bone Marrow had remained where they were, laying in wait for the fighting to eventually end. They had discussed outcomes for what they would do if either side won, both hinging on the ability to remain hidden.

The nearby bushes of the forest had rustled from time to time, only for a chipmunk or other creature to hop out, nibble on something and then scurry off. Birds had stopped singing as night fell, and crickets refused to give themselves away amidst all the fighting. Winds kept the three colder than they would've liked, but they had remained safe all this time in their spot. Making themselves comfortable, and offering a spot for Bone Marrow to lay down on the grass next to them, the three continued observing the conflict.

What they were unaware of soon came to make itself known, however. When the darkness had fallen, new soldiers had arrived on their purple force's side. Dark as the night and silent as the air they flew through, the group had long ago been spotted by spies of the purple ponies, also known as The Bright Moon. Slit pupils of yellow coloration had been stalking the group as they watched, the two hunters clueless to the threat around them.

The pair of eyes watched from the treetops, stalking the group beneath and waiting for them to wander off or fall asleep. As the battle beyond withdrew into another stalemate of conflict and soldiers fell back to their camp or town, the group grew weary of watching.

"Think we should find someplace to sleep?" The unicorn below had asked with a yawn. "Kinda loses its edge when you're just watching the fighting, you know?"

"We have remained hidden." The zebra replied, moving carefully to check his surroundings with slow and methodical pace. "We should be alert however, and I will remain awake for the first half of the night."

The emaciated white foal, the object of the yellow eyed spy's attention for most of the night, was already fast asleep. A symbol of death sat on his flank in the form of a cutiemark. A raven's skull to be precise. This had not gone unnoticed to the spy, as she had been waiting all this time for the moment to strike. Judging if the foal was thin enough to carry away with a quick swoop and then escape from the zebra and unicorn, or if she should wait for later.

Not wanting to take the risk of dropping the frail pony, the spy of The Bright Moon had waited patiently. She would land, incapacitate or slay the zebra, and then flee into the night towards the camp with her prize in tow. She would be able to easily carry him, the problem had been the others nearby possibly damaging her wings afterwards. With a hypothetical zebra out of the way and a sleeping unicorn as her only opponent, the foal would be easy to capture.

"Luna's light, guide my blade." The spy whispered in prayer to the obscured moon above, the symbol of the mare looking down upon her in return through holes in the cloudy cover above.

A sharpened and blackened dagger held in her mouth, the batpony extended her wings for flight. A silent glide down to the group, a quick stab and sheathing of her weapon, then she could carry off the foal before the unicorn would be able to retaliate. Fast, messy, and somewhat complicated. She preferred it that way.

As she launched from the branch the only sound was a rustling of pine as she descended on her leathery wings, twitching and correcting her course as the wind threatened to knock her off target. She would have one chance for a surprise attack to work, or she would have to flee in failure. She aimed for the spine of the zebra, just below the skull.

As the blade was about to strike, the Zebra rested his head on the grass beneath him, the dagger narrowly missing with a gust of wind following the batpony's annoyed hissing.

"What the...?" The zebra wondered aloud, now alerted and standing on his hooves. He drew a blade from his side, ready to attack anypony that might come from the darkness of the night to make an attempt on his life.

A glint of yellow in the darkness and another gust of wind. The zebra flinched, touching his hoof to his right cheek and witnessing the moon in his blood's reflection. The zebra thought fast. Speaking would be muffled, and his partner was a heavy sleeper. Dropping his blade was out of the question.

A heavy hoof fell on the unicorn, causing him to shout in surprise and pain. "What was that for!?" The unicorn blurted loudly, rubbing his flank. Seeing the zebra with a sword in his mouth and blood trickling down his face, he soon took hold of the situation. His horn lit a solid yellow as the magic from his horn grew, blinding those around him in a brilliant burst of light.

The bat pony shrieked loudly, shielding her eyes from the light with her hooves as she flew vertically into the air away from the two bounty hunters.

"Alright, I'm awake!" The unicorn stated loudly, his voice slightly shaking from the abruptness of the encounter and the confusion from what he had just witnessed. "What was that thing?"

"Tah-k lay-er." The zebra replied with muffled annoyance. "Ish bad time."

Bone Marrow rose from his slumber, rubbing his sleepy eyes with a free hoof. "What's going on," he mumbled, "did I miss it?"

"Some thing came out of nowhere and attacked us." The unicorn explained, his horn still lit brightly. "Think they flew off by now?"

The zebra then realized with wide eyes that such a bright light in the middle of the night was not alright. Spitting out his sword onto the ground, he shouted in fright, "Get rid of that light!"

The unicorn complied, and they were soon plunged into the all encompassing darkness of night blindness. The two bounty hunters stood still, not wanting to bump into each other as their eyes adjusted. Bone Marrow, however, hadn't even noticed a change. He did notice that there were a great many pairs of eyes staring at them from all around. Before he had a chance to open his mouth, a fuzzy hoof wrapped around his head and lifted him from the ground.

A sense of falling soon overwhelmed Bone Marrow as he was taken into the sky; whatever was holding him had tightened their grip considerably to not risk dropping him. Bone could see the two bounty hunters vanish amongst a pile of leather wings and hissing, the sounds of fighting soon being lost on the breeze of the wind.

He felt a pang of loss for the two he had known for barely a day, especially after hearing their plans for what they would attempt to forge with their 'earnings' as they had mentioned. He hoped they would make it out alright. Wondering If they had told him the truth or lied to him about what a bounty meant was no longer a concern for Bone Marrow. Now he was far more worried about falling to his death... and then waking up from it.

Meat of the Matter

View Online

Rushing winds and the tight grip that held Bone Marrow pulled his mind away from the past and firmly back into the present when the pair of leathery wings holding the two ponies in the air suddenly went for a dive. The ground rushed towards the both of them, the gravity and impending doom causing the young foal to slam his eyes shut against both the wind and the terrifying speed that he thought he would meet with the ground.

To his relief, the ground was not scheduled for an impact that day.

The bat pony pulled away from the soaked grass beneath them moments before collision, sharply jerking his neck and opening his eyes with shock as what little wind he could hold in his lungs was knocked free. Soon after, he was placed on the ground in a foal-sized heap of coughing and sputtering as he attempted to breathe once again. The foal-napper landed beside him, sheathing her black dagger in a metallic holder on her side before staring down at the emaciated unicorn in front of her.

"So fragile for a necromancer," the pony mused. The battle for the town waxed in the distance, shouts of conflict and screams of pain becoming muffled on the windy landscape that Bone Marrow found himself on. His coughing had become manageable now, and steady breathing was once again a part of his life. "Are you able to stand?"

Bone Marrow looked up with his blue glowing eyes, illuminating the slit yellow orbs that greeted him in the darkness. Pointed fangs protruded downward from the mare's face. A dark cowl covered most of her, along with the dark purple robes secured to her body with strips of tightly bound cloth. Bone Marrow guessed they would help her fly better somehow if she wasn't constantly needing to chase after a robe that flew off all the time, so the outfit made sense to him.

The mare waved a hoof in front of the young necromancer's muzzle. "Hello? Has your mind not been resurrected along with your body?"

Bone Marrow blinked a few times, his expression clueless. "Uh, no? I can stand, I think."

The yellow orbs rolled. "Well get on your hooves then. I'm not going to wait outside all day while you figure out which hoof goes in front of the other."

Bone Marrow, confused as ever, did as he was told. Standing to his hooves with a bit of strain, he looked up at the impatient bat pony. No sooner had his mouth opened to ask a question did she turn around, the implied course of action being to follow her.

Now, this scene was beginning to trigger some alarm bells with Bone Marrow. The Royal Guard had done this exact same scenario, but the last time he attempted escape he had gotten himself lost in an unfamiliar mine. He could of course attempt to run off again, not follow the bat pony and make his escape, but where would that get him? Bone Marrow shook his head. This time, he would see where the stranger would take him. It's not like he could die or anything, right? At least permanently...

Walking further away from the battle behind them, Bone Marrow soon spotted an encampment of tents, guards and more than a few spears being assembled in his direction. Looking past the cool-tempered bat pony, his worry only grew as shouts rang out across the camp. He became worried that he was being lead straight to a Royal Guard encampment, but the armoring was all different. Darker tones of purple, silver and black were the main representation, not gold.

"Ready yourselves!" The batpony mare called out ahead of Bone Marrow and herself to the gathering group. "A Necromancer approaches. Do not injure him!"

Bone Marrow was confused even more now. How did so many ponies know more about necromancy than he did? Was that the actual name of his cutie mark, or was that simply what everypony called it? It was supposed to be his special talent, yet constantly he ran into ponies that seemed to have some education about it. Maybe they would teach him? Or, as Bone Marrow thought a bit harder, maybe they wanted to use him.

The bat pony turned her head to the thoughtful foal. "Don't hurt any of my soldiers, Necromancer."

Bone's eyes shifted from staring at the ground in thought to staring at the leather-wing in front of him. "O-okay," He blurted, "I wasn't really planning on it anyway."

The two walked through the guarded section of the camp, all eyes heavy with suspicion or fear when faced with the small unicorn. They had heard tales of necromancers before, especially after the wanted posters had gone out all over Equestria for the very pony that walked between their tents now. White coat, blue eyes and dark hair. Most importantly of all features, however, was the glowing skull that resided where a pupil should be in each eye. The significance of that feature had been repeated for weeks since the necromancer's disappearance, and now he was being lead into the camp.

More than a few guards peeled off from the main group to rush towards the wounded members of the camp, fearing that the foal might put some kind of spell on the sick and injured to turn them into the undead. Others simply scowled and moved well out of Bone's way, their mouths eager to draw their sword and hack the necromancer amongst them to pieces. They had been told that killing a necromancer was horrible news for all involved, but they hadn't been told anything beyond that.

The bat pony came to a large tent and pulled at one of the flaps. "In here, Necromancer." She was impatient, tense, and her wings twitched. Bone Marrow once again decided that doing what he was told this time would be the best action for now. He could come up with a plan of escape later, just to figure everything out that was happening to him.

Walking inside, Bone Marrow found himself on relatively dry grass. Fresh green blades swished past his small hooves during his entrance to the tent, his sight greeted by maps, scrolls and the occasional book used as a paperweight for yet more maps of importance. A small cot sat near the 'wall' of the tent next to a steaming cup of mystery liquid, one that Bone Marrow hoped was tea and not some other kind of crazy brew. Lit by candles and exuding a somewhat welcoming atmosphere, the tent flap abruptly fell behind him. The sounds of battle were a distant background noise now, only faintly heard if he really listened for it.

Bone Marrow's attention was immediately seized by movement across from him; another hooded figure that hadn't moved since his entrance. "Please," The soothing voice suggested, "Have a seat."

There was a rich texture to this pony's voice, somewhat deep and warming at the same time. Like being wrapped in a ball of blankets on a rainy day. Bone Marrow was surprised to see that the pony greeting him was yet another Bat Pony, this time a stallion of impressive build. His armor was plated and dark, etched with silver details and a royal purple elsewhere. A short cloak was hung nearby along with a plated helmet, decorative metal bat wings on each side of the helm.

"Have you eaten recently, young pony?" The voice asked, pushing a plate of something from the shadowed corner of the tent into the candle light. It was an oval shaped slab of... something. Bone Marrow had never seen anything like it in his life before, yet somehow it seemed familiar. "It is meat, somewhat freshly acquired for you."

Bone Marrow's face immediately contorted with disgust, pushing the plate away from him. "Meat? What do I need meat for!?"

The pony sitting opposite the necromancer was patient, pointing to the slab of flesh with an armored hoof. "You are neither dead, nor living. You are no longer a pony. Your body will not sustain itself off of oats and bread, nor apples or pears. You are weak, starving even. Eat the meat and regain your strength."

Once again, ceramic slid across wood to bring the odd smelling meal closer to Bone Marrow. He looked down at it again with uncertainty and uneasiness, poking the side of it and lifting it from the plate until gravity caused the flesh to slap itself against the plate with a splatter of red blood. Bone grimaced, pulling the plate closer to himself and questioned what lead him to this point in his life, that he would be eating what was probably some-pony else.

The dark hooded stallion seemed to sense this very internal debate happening within the young necromancer. "The meat in front of you was taken from the body of a cow, recently passed from a heart attack brought on by the conflict outside."

Still not entirely trusting of the soothing voice that told him to eat meat, Bone Marrow poked at his 'food' once more, noting that it smelled fairly horrible to him. "Isn't there... I dont know, something that could be done about... all of this?" He gestured to the plate in front of him, the raw slab of meat and the blood that dripped messily from the side of the plate onto a strategically placed hoof-kerchief.

The stallion chuckled. "I've never known a necromancer to be a picky eater, but I suppose we could have it cooked."

Bone's eyes went wide. "Cooked!?"

"Well, you want less blood. You want less mess. Roasting flesh over a fire is a sure way to achieve both ends, and produce a more... interesting smell."

Now the foal was even more uncomfortable, the thought of slowly turning a dead cow over an open flame coming to mind and giving him reason to shut his eyes, attempting to banish the thought from memory.

"There we are..." The voice muttered.

In confusion, Bone Marrow opened his eyes to the sight of a nearly empty plate, save for the singular T-bone that existed in the center. A color of pure white that only bleach could provide. "What..." Bone whispered, "What happened?"

The stallion smiled, his fanged teeth prominent in the light. "You've eaten meat, Necromancer. Though, most likely not in the manner you were expecting."

A thought came to Bone Marrow quite suddenly after the revelation that he had somehow eaten meat without knowing. "Are you..."

"A Necromancer?" The figure interrupted with amusement. "No, though Luna has warned us many times about your kind far before her descent into madness."

"I meant... are you a vam-pony?" Bone continued, earning a scowl from the pony opposite.

The hooded figure pulled away his cowl, yellow eyes glaring through Bone Marrow's chilled blue eyes. "If you were any other pony, I'd have you hanged for that remark."

Bone put his fore hooves up in an act of surrender, "Okay, okay, my bad!"

"Vampires are an even worse plague upon Equestria than you, Necromancer, and the reason I tolerate your existence in this kingdom is that you are not a mindless thrall to some higher creature. No, you are free to act as you choose." The figure explained, first taking a deep breath to calm himself before continuing on. "A necromancer, when not hunted or thrown into lava, can be a force of good or evil. Princess Luna herself knew this fact, and many times in the past has the dark witchery of a Necromancer actually saved lives."

"But... then why is every pony so scared of me?" Bone Marrow wondered, gesturing to the guards posted outside. "Every time I even look at somepony, they look the other way!"

The Bat-pony reached for a nearby book, thick and buckled in silver. "Ponies have always been fearful of things they don't fully understand. Even more-so when the ponies they thought dead and buried come back from the grave to murder those that they once loved." With a deep breath, the pony blew dust from the cover and noisily set the book down on the table. "In this tome you will find tall tales of the Necromancers that have come before you. Most of it is complete nonsense, though some you will have already experienced first hoof."

The pages of the book flipped open with the Bat-pony's hoof, scouring page after page and lifting a final bookmark before turning the tome of tall tales to Bone Marrow. Reading the title, the foal was understandably concerned. "Necromancers Eat Foals?"

"Ignorance at it's best," the well armored pony attested, "Though it holds a grain of truth in the tale." Flipping past a few pages, the pony pointed to the dramatic visage of the necromancer. His eyes were a bright purple this time, yet held the same skull symbol within the pupils. "The mark of a Necromancer that is most difficult to hide."

Bone Marrow shook his head. "So? What does that have to do with anything?"

The book suddenly closed shut and was pushed aside. "You, dear foal, have the power to change Equestria for good or ill based upon the actions you take. No one, save those particularly gifted with magic, have a chance to stand against you forever. You may have died once, yes, but you will never stay dead. Only lava or a soul jar can trap your soul in one place."

The young unicorn simply stared at the Bat-pony across from him, a bit numb to everything he had just heard. "Why... why is that?"

"I want to use your abilities to save Equestria, Necromancer." The pony stated flatly. "There are Royal Guard in that town on a witch hunt for you, at command of Princess Celestia. They do not seek to harm you; they want to strike the same bargain that I aim to make."

Bone Marrow's head was spinning with a whirlwind of possibilities, each more confusing and upsetting than the last. Had the Royal Guard come for him in the mines only to recruit him? Had he run away like a fool, only to be picked up by stranger after stranger? What was all this talk of Princess Luna; wasn't she still around?

"What happened to Princess Luna?" Bone Marrow suddenly asked, catching the bat-pony off guard. "Why is there so much fighting all of a sudden?"

"You haven't heard?" The pony questioned, "Princess Luna has been banished to the moon."

The Moon? Bone Marrow thought with disbelief. It hadn't been an innocent design that Luna had placed on the moon, no, it had been a symbol of her banishment. She was trapped now, so far away from anypony else. "Why was she banished?" Bone Marrow demanded to know.

"She..." The pony began, seeming to find his explanation lacking, "No-pony can really say, to be completely fair with you."

Bone's glowing eyes narrowed with suspicion and intensity. He had grown up with the admiration of both Princesses. They don't simply get banished one day without explanation. "What happened?" Bone Marrow demanded again, his voice as stern as a foal could manage.

The yellow slit pupils danced back and forth with uncertainty between each of Bone Marrow's intensely glowing eyes, the threat of what sat in front of him becoming all too real very quickly. If the foal had any brains in him, he would know that his body could be devoured just as easily as the plate of meat had been previously. His only course of action now would be the complete truth, or the bat pony would witness his body disintegrate in front of his very eyes.

"Princess Luna went mad. She became a twisted monstrosity of herself named Nightmare Moon, and she sought to cover all of Equestria in an eternal night." The pony took a shaky breath before continuing, trying to keep his voice as steady as possible in the face of sudden death. "Some time ago, little over a month, Princess Luna and Princess Celestia were in a heated argument over the state of Equestria. More specifically, Luna had discovered that a large portion of the population hadn't even heard of her, not recognizing that she was one of the rulers of the nation. In that time, Princess Luna had been tasked with guarding Equestria from all that haunts us in the night. We bat-ponies joined the Princess in her vigil, ensuring that the towns far from Canterlot were under protection when the Royal Guard went to sleep."

Bone Marrow was listening intently, though his threatening gaze lessened as the story went on.

"One day over a month ago, Princess Luna challenged Princess Celestia. Luna stated that the hours of the day should be split evenly; Twelve of day and twelve of night. Celestia did not agree, and she stated that ponies would not be able to become accustomed to such a dramatic change in their lives. Princess Luna became upset and announced that all ponies would be required to stay awake for at least eight hours after the sun had fallen to appreciate her night, and all the work she had gone through for hundreds of years to ensure a peaceful slumber for a period of at least ten years." The bat pony continued, now lowering his guard and flowing with the story as the Necromancer in front of him calmed further.

"The two Princesses debated long, and neither could reach an agreement on what was to be done. Princess Luna and Celestia reportedly stormed off in opposite directions of the palace, each lamenting the stubbornness of the other. Shortly afterward, a thunderous crash was heard in Princess Luna's room. Guards of both the Moon and Sun rushed to the aid of the Princess, only to find the horror of Nightmare Moon. The guards were slain, part of the palace was cast off into the city below with a blast of magic, and the two Princesses held a duel in the midnight sky that lasted for hours."

"Eventually Nightmare Moon gained the upper hoof, sending Princess Celestia through a wall of the Palace's artifact chambers. There, the Princess was forced to use the Elements of Harmony on the creature that was once Princess Luna, and she was banished to the moon. The spell was sudden, uncontrolled, and there is no telling as to how long our Princess of the Night will be sealed away."

The bat-pony stallion was somber now, the adrenaline of his confrontation fading and being dampened further by the telling of his tale. "Now, petty nobles and lords fight to gain control over Equestria as Princess Celestia recovers from her battle with The Nightmare. Royal Guard are holding every location vital to trade and the continued existence of the nation while splinter factions have seen the fighting between the Princesses as a sign of rebellion to the rule of the Two Sisters. We of the Bright Moon believe that had Princess Celestia relented, there would never had been a Nightmare Moon, and the Knights of the Sun state that Princess Luna attempted to murder her sister to take the throne for herself, and all her followers should be executed for treason."

"And the Royal Guard in the town outside?" Bone Marrow asked, his hoof pointing in the general direction of the combat still faintly heard.

"Knights of the Sun," The pony explained with a sigh, "They hunt for members of the Night Watch. They do not mean to cause chaos, nor do they seek to be murderers. In their own confused way, they seek justice for what has happened to Princess Celestia. I would see justice be done as well, though we cannot do that by dividing ourselves amongst the Princesses."

"How do I help? I'm just a foal that recently learned they could make dead things not-so-dead again. I don't see how that is supposed to help anypony." Bone Marrow countered, now interested more in what could be done than in an escape attempt. It seemed like a big development was happening with Equestria and he decided that helping out would be a better way of spending his time than running around starving, lost someplace forever.

The pony took a deep breath as he thought over his reply carefully. "I need you to cause distractions with the dead. Raise them and terrorize the cities we say, so The Bright Moon can swoop in to save the day. Each city saved will give us more supporters, and draw away from the Knights of the Sun. Eventually, if we can convince the ponies of Equestria to not hunt down each other in some blind grasping at justice, or hold on long enough for Princess Celestia to recover from her fight, then in the end we will have saved lives rather than caused a Civil War between ponies."

This idea didn't sit well with Bone Marrow. It seemed wrong somehow, like benefiting from misery that he would be blamed for so these 'Bright Moon' could play the hero. Bone had been read enough bed-time stories about heroes, he had seen how to be one, how to save the day a thousand times before breakfast. Tales of Princess Luna and Princess Celestia fighting the big-bad Discord and saving all of Equestria from chaos and terror came to mind the most often.

Bone Marrow realized that his own talents might not be the same as the Princesses of the Sun and Moon, but he could still help out and be the hero he so desperately wanted to be without playing scapegoat for a questionable group of ponies; all of which hadn't even offered their name.

Bone shook his head at the bat-pony in front of him. "I won't help you, mister bat-pony. I don't trust you, and none of this seems right to me. There has to be a better way than terrorizing ponies to get your way, or murdering every pony that you think might be traitors."

The impulse to simply command the foal to do as he said rose quickly in the Bat pony, before his brain reminded him of his intense need to preserve his own life and the realization that a Necromancer, however small, sat in front of him. The foal would not help, and there was little he would be able to do about this directly. He sat back into his chair, ideas of how best to play this new situation to his advantage playing out in his mind.

"Thank you for the... um, the meat, I guess." Bone Marrow added, pushing the plate with a single T-Bone away from him and sliding off of his chair into the grassy ground below. "The flying was kind of nice too."

"Necromancer." The bat pony spoke suddenly, "I have a question for you, before you leave."

Bone's brow furrowed with interest. "Yeah?"

"What will you do? You are a wanted pony and all will know your face. You have nowhere to hide, you likely have no idea where you are, you have no meat to sustain yourself and you are alone."

Bone Marrow looked at the plate in front of him and then to himself. He had been expecting the thin rib-cage of emaciation but was emboldened by the sight of his old healthy body. Bone Marrow supposed that the meat he had 'eaten' explained this sudden change, especially since it was really cool. Taking a breath, and with a somewhat vague goal in mind, he moved for the tent's door.

"I really don't know what I'm going to do, Mister bat-pony. You're right that I'm lost and I have no place to go, but I don't really need any of that, do I? I just need a few dead ponies at my side to go from place to place, a helpful bit of clothing to blend in like those cool books about spies, and... and random dead things, I guess." Bone Marrow was about to leave before he asked the mysterious pony, "What's your name, by the way?"

The pony grimaced at the question, "It is never wise to tell a Necromancer your name." After a short while however, he reconsidered. "You may call me Anvil. It is a pen-name, and others will know who you speak of if you wish to reconsider."

"Try not to get killed, It'll make talking with you slightly more difficult." Bone chuckled, unintentionally sending shivers up the Batpony's spine, especially since it was the laugh of a foal twisted with the knowledge of how large a threat the unicorn was.

Soon after, the small necromancer used his magic to lift the short cloak from the rack in order to conceal himself, slipping out of the tent and sprinting away from the encampment.

Never Trust Strangers

View Online

Tall looming trees, whipping branches, crunching leaves and rustling bushes. Owls hooting in the distance and the constant feeling of being watched with every step.

"I hate forests." Bone Marrow whined, his head tucked close to the ground from the fear of a branch knocking it off or something swiping its nasty claws at him from the treetops. "Why'd I think this was a good idea again?"

Bone Marrow had succeeded in his escape from the Bright Moon's camp. Moving as far away from the bat ponies as he possibly could before tiring, the foal now found himself alone in a forest he had no concept of. Bright plants glowed and swayed as he passed, as if they were begging to be touched or smelled. The trees themselves moved erratically; shifting and twisting like monsters waiting for the perfect moment to drag him screaming into the wilderness, never to be seen again.

The young necromancer couldn't help but shiver at the thought of waking up from such a fate, only for the very likely possibility that it would happen again and again as he went on through this horrible expanse of shrubs and terror. He felt all too small and vulnerable now that he was alone once more. His experiences in the mines of Scoria paid his mind a visit, reminding him of how long he had been lost before.

"Shouldn't have run off..." Bone whispered to himself. "Stupid to run off into the forest..."

Yet another rustling of bushes from behind cause the foal to whip is body around to face the unseen foe. Shaking leaves from a gust of wind. He was almost becoming used to it now, though the creepy feeling of being followed never left Bone Marrow alone for long.

The foal turned around again to face the path ahead once more, grumbling to himself. "I hate forests, I hate forests, I hate forests!"

Pulling his hood tightly over his head, Bone Marrow decided that if he didn't see what came out of nowhere to eat him, maybe it would be less painful or frightening. Besides, If he died he would just come back, right? He had done it before without any real effort on his part. It just happened. With a morbid smile, he realized that even if something in the forest did eat him, he would have the last laugh every time. He would come back, the thing that ate him would be turned to ash, and he could carry on until the next thing ate him.

He then also realized that teeth are sharp and not very pleasant to look at when they come from something that eats meat. Imagining the pain of being slowly devoured bite by bite put the sense of fear straight back into the lonely foal. He pulled his hood away to better hear the creepy sounds around him, his glowing eyes searching for any sign of movement so that he could bolt in the opposite direction.

"I'm not chewy, I'm small and bony," Bone Marrow said loudly to the nothingness that surrounded him. "I don't have any meat on me, so I'm not worth the effort to chew, alright? You hear me out there, forest monsters?"

The foal's timid journey through the seemingly endless forest continued, all in search of any sign of civilization at this point. Even if the only road Bone found lead him straight back into Anvil's camp, he would be happy to follow it. Just to be certain that nothing would leap out at him, screech suddenly above his head or growl in the distance menacingly. No bears, no crocodiles, no Timber Wolves, not a single thing.

He remembered the tales of heroes he had been read, how they were fearless, brave and without equal. Looking at his own situation, Bone Marrow soon came to the quick realization that the stories he heard were probably not factual. Then again, if he was telling a story about how he saved Equestria, he wouldn't want anypony to think he was scared of being alone in the forest. Bone also decided he would be immensely powerful and brave, and nothing could defeat him.

The bushes behind Bone Marrow seemed to have a different idea, however. The foal turned just in time with the sound of rustling to witness a bolt of steel scrape across the side of his neck, embedding itself in a nearby tree trunk.

Bone Marrow held a dirt-stained hoof to the wound, his eyes wide with surprise and shock. A figure had been following him this entire time; the feeling of being watched had been this pony all along! A crossbow was held in the newcomer's hooves, loaded with a new bolt aimed directly towards his chest.

"Next one goes in your heart," the graveled voice of the crossbow wielding pony flatly stated.

Bone Marrow's mind screamed with panic. What was he supposed to do? Should he run?

"Lay on the ground, foal."

Bone Marrow did as he was told, lowering himself to the ground and flopping over on his side. Perhaps if he did everything the pony wanted, he wouldn't get hurt?

The armed pony moved closer, crossbow leveled at his chest in a field of magic. He was a unicorn, Bone realized. Dark clothing, a few pouches for holding even more bolts, a hood that concealed his face... This wasn't going to end well. This unicorn looked like the bandits he had seen fighting over Scoria. Maybe he survived the battle there?

"Idiot." The unicorn grumbled, shaking his head. "I told you the next one was going in your heart."

When the bandit had moved close enough, Bone Marrow saw the small lever underneath the crossbow clamp upwards into the stock. The bolt was on its way; he couldn't move in time. There would be no way he could move fast enough to dodge the bolt. It was already too close for comfort; Bone grimaced as the cold tip of steel sliced its way into his chest, cracking a rib as it pierced through and slammed into his heart. The wind was knocked clear from his lungs and the wound on his neck was forgotten entirely as he was flipped onto his other side by the force of the impact. Bone Marrow tried to scream for help, to yell for the bandit to stop but it was already too late. His heart was shredded, he could feel blood pooling inside of him and his gasps for air soon brought only blood gushing from his mouth.

The bandit loomed over the young necromancer, his face the very definition of unimpressed. "Not even a coin purse?"

Bone tried to crawl away as his vision began to fade. He knew he was about to die yet again. What had been his mistake this time? Going through the forests? Trusting somepony to not hurt him? He couldn't decide what had been his first mistake, but he knew his last had been trusting a random pony he didn't know. All too late, he recalled his mother warning him about this very thing; not trusting strangers, Not going into the forest at night.

As his body slowly filled with blood in places there shouldn't be blood, he mused about how many times he was going to get himself killed trying to be a hero. He blinked slowly with the realization that he had been killed just wandering through a forest, doing no wrong. The last time he had been killed was because of his eyes, now it was because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Should he really be getting so worked up about his death like this? He was a necromancer after all. Death was supposed to be his talent!

With his consciousness fading into nothing and the bandit overturning every part of Bone for some hidden treasure, he decided that if he was going to keep coming back to life every time he died there was little point in getting hysterical. It was becoming less of a threat and more of a painful inconvenience for him, and that brightened his mood about the whole dying thing. He was very likely going to die. A lot.

And he indeed did die. His body went limp, his eyes glowed an obscenely bright blue and the screaming of the Bandit nearby was cut short by a blast of energy that turned the surrounding forest into an ashen sludge.

He had apparently been dead longer this time than previous, as the sun now shined brightly overhead. Bone's weary and tired eyes opened to the piercing beams of the sun and his first breath reminded him of an intense pain inside of his chest.

Oh no, thought Bone Marrow, the Bolt was still lodged inside of him. He hadn't pulled it out.

Looking around the clearing, Bone Marrow noticed that not only had the bandit been turned to ash, but every single blade of grass and tree in the clearing had been withered into a black sludge as well. His body was covered in blood once more and the only things to survive the devastation around him had been the cloak stolen from Anvil and the bolt that stuck proudly in his chest. Pushing himself from the ground and steadying himself against the pain to come, Bone Marrow recollected the things that had killed him previously to distract from what he was doing to himself now.

"Well-" Bone Marrow attempted to say to himself before the sharp pain of a crossbow bolt embedded in his chest caused his insides to be sliced apart. Flexing his chest in an attempt to clamp down on the pain, Bone Marrow decided to stubbornly finish his statement. "At least I can say that I've been stabbed-" He grunted, grabbing onto the bolt awkwardly with his mouth, "I've had my guts sliced out of me-" He added with a muffled scream of pain from yanking on the wooden shaft of the bolt with his teeth, "I've had a sword cut my head in two, and I've been shot through the heart with a crossbow bolt!"

A final tug caused the bolt to slide further out of the foal's chest, a gush of blood making its escape from the fresh wounds that were being created in Bone Marrow's recently resurrected body. "Aagh, why does this have to be so painful!?" Bone shouted as he lost his grip on the bolt hanging from his chest. "I mean, I know I've been shot with a crossbow and that it's painful," The foal added, "Shouldn't I have some kind of pain dampening thing I can do!?"

He re-applied his grip on the crossbow bolt once more, moving his mouth as close to his own body as possible while trying to avoid getting any more blood on his muzzle. "I've been alive for all of a few minutes, and now i'm about to get myself killed again just pulling this bolt out of my chest!"

The rustling of leaves drew Bone Marrow's attention, pulling his mouth away from the bloody mess that was the remains of his chest to look over his shoulder at what had caused the noise. To his surprise, a pony was standing in plain view of the now lifeless clearing staring with wide horror at what they were witnessing. Bone noticed the pony was wearing a pretty sun dress and seemed to be a Pegasus from what his weary eyes could make out. The pain was making it difficult for his eyes to focus and he was worried that he might die a bit too soon.

"By the Princesses, what happened here!?" The pony loudly gasped; a mare by the sound of their voice. "You're covered in blood! Is... Is that an arrow in your chest!?"

Bone's mouth was now gummed up with the thick clot of blood from his attempted tugging, and instead of answering the poor mare he decided that the best thing he could do at the moment would be to finish pulling the bolt from his chest. He really hoped that the mare would run away. He didn't want her to be turned into a black smudge like the bandit probably had been.

Gripping the bolt with his teeth, Bone Marrow made a final desperate tug at the thing stuck in his chest. A terrible ripping sound came from his body along with peeling skin and the tearing of muscle. Blood gushed freely from his wound and Bone Marrow could swear he heard the hurried gallop of hooves moving away.

Another muffled sentence before he fell into unconsciousness was interrupted by the well of blood in the young unicorns mouth, spraying it with a cough onto the blackened forest floor, and Bone Marrow died for a second time that day.

Bone Marrow could barely drag his eyes open now. Sliding apart like large granite doors, Bone Marrow found himself laying on his back and covered in bandages from hoof to muzzle. Attempting to ask what was going on was halted by the fact that his mouth was bandaged shut and that his voice was little more than a rasp.

"He's awake!" A shrill voice announced, soon followed by the galloping of hooves and the scratchy noise of sliding across a tile floor. "Mo-om, the bloody foal is awake!"

The young necromancer took the time to test his lungs, and was overjoyed at the fact that the deep breath he took was not interrupted by the sharp pain of steel cutting through flesh.

New rule, Bone Marrow thought, never ever trust strangers. Strangers are bad.

A very worried and matronly looking Pegasus poked her head around the corner to look at Bone Marrow. Her head darted away, and a moment later she returned with a plate of various foods that she soon set down on a counter top next to the bed. Bone took a deep breath and he could smell cookies.

Actually, addition to the rule, Bone thought, Only trust strangers if they have cookies. No, wait, mom warned me about that too. He groaned aloud at that fact. Why can't ponies just be trustworthy? She has cookies!

"Are you alright?" The Pegasus asked, resting her hoof on the bandaged foal's head. "I saw you with something sticking out of your chest, covered in blood in the middle of the most horrible part of the forest I've ever seen! Sticky sludge, ash and what was probably pitch was everywhere. How did you even find yourself in a place like that? Do your parent's know where you are?"

Bone Marrow would have replied, though he once again was made aware that his mouth was bandaged shut, much like the rest of his body that had been practically mummified with the amount of gauze the Pegasus had used.

"Oh dear, let me get that for you." The Pegasus tutted, unraveling the bandages that acted like tape to Bone's mouth.

Bone opened his mouth, testing his jaw hinges with a powerful yawn. "That sucked." He stated bluntly.

The motherly Pegasus' eyes went a bit wide. "You shouldn't say such naughty things like that, young pony."

Bone decided to clarify. "I was shot in the chest with a crossbow bolt."

The Pegasus froze. She had been tending to the rest of Bone's bandages when her brain registered what the foal had just said. "You're... you're joking, right?"

Bone Marrow then debated how smart this lady actually was, considering his eyes were fairly difficult to hide and the fact that practically every pony he had encountered since getting his cutie-mark knew what a necromancer was and how to spot them. Maybe it was a special education they all had? No, that didn't work. There were bounties posted everywhere from what he had been told.

"I'm going to assume you have a very dark sense of humor." The Pegasus decided based on Bone's lack of reply. She carried on with her task of unraveling the young unicorn and threw the bloodied gauze into a pile on the wooden floor next to the hoof of the bed. "We're going to get you all washed up, get you a meal, and you can tell us all about what happened in the forest, alright?"

Now a possibly awkward remembrance came to mind. Bone Marrow needed meat, and until yesterday he had been on the side of every pony else in believing that eating meat was a horrible and unnecessary thing to do. Should he tell the Pegasus that he preferred meat, or that he needed it? Maybe ask if they had... chicken eggs? Would that work as a meat substitute, or did it specifically have to be red and bloody meat?

"You don't talk much, do you?"

A small Pegasus filly was poking her head around the corner leading into the room Bone Marrow occupied. A brightly colored mane and a coat with light blue fur, her eyes a brilliant magenta. She seemed more interested than worried about the amount of blood soaked bandages piling up than anything else. "You get in a fight with a bear or something?"

Bone rasped out a reply, "I think if I was fighting a bear, the bear won."

She shrugged, entering the room. "Well, if you're alive still, i'd say you won."

Remembering how excruciating it was to wrench a crossbow bolt from his chest, Bone Marrow considered the level of pain compared between being eaten by a bear and being shot again with a crossbow. He would probably pick the bear if he had the option to choose.

"Can you walk?" The filly asked, her head turned with curiosity.

Bone grunted out a noise that approached the realm of, "Meh."

The mother pegasus tutted once again, finishing with the last of the bandages and looking Bone Marrow over for any other injuries. "In that case, i'll just have to carry you. In the mean time, maybe some applesauce will get you on your hooves?" Continuing her search, she found a few scars running along Bone's belly and face. "What happened to you, poor thing?"

Bone huffed an amused smile. "A bear."

A Clean Start

View Online

Bone Marrow sat in the Pegasus' washroom staring with wide eyed wonder at the tub in front of him. His fur was a matted mess of dirt, pitch and dried blood that made movement awkward and disgusting. He had agreed to the suggestion of getting cleaned up, but he hadn't pictured the tub of slowly filling hot water that simply existed in the room.

In the town of Scoria, water was a rare enough commodity that a bath would consist of a damp rag and some soap until whatever was unacceptably dirty had been cleaned, leaving a single spot of cleanliness for as long as the dusty town would allow to remain undirtied. The tub now represented the largest body of water his eyes had physically seen in his life and his excitement only grew as the water rose.

The Pegasus mother, now dressed in an apron, looked at Bone with some concern, "Are you okay? You seem awfully excited to take a bath for somepony your age."

The young necromancer's eyes shifted away from the tub to the Pegasus before flicking quickly to the floor. "It's just a lot of water, I guess. I'm not really used to that much just existing in one place."

"You're a pretty weird pony." The Pegasus filly from earlier pointed out. She had been carrying the next tub of water by the handle, gripped in her mouth. "Do they not have lakes where you're from?"

Bone vaguely recalled what a lake was from his teacher in school mentioning it a few times, but shook his head anyway. "I've only heard about them before. What are they, exactly? Are lakes like a tub but bigger?"

The filly dumped her bucket of hot water into the tub, watching the water swish around inside before being satisfied. "I think we have one near the town, but I'm not taking you anywhere when you look like that."

Bone approached the side of the tub with curiosity, his hooves dangling over the edge. "So, what do we do? Is there a rag nearby?"

The mother lifted Bone into the air with her hooves before slowly lowering the unicorn into the bath. A visible wave of filth emanated from contact with the hot water causing the two Pegasus to second guess their choice of cleaning when Bone was already nasty.

Bone Marrow, however, was enjoying himself far too much to be concerned about a bit of muddy water. He rocked back and forth with the moving water before his body settled at the bottom, his muzzle above the waterline while the rest of him was submerged in comfort. A contented sigh escaped from the young necromancer as his eyes closed.

"This is the best thing I've ever done," Bone sincerely stated, swishing his muzzle and head in the now murky water as drops escaped the tub from his activity.

The mother pulled a curtain to the side of the tub to shield herself from the splashing. "Easy with your movements dear, we don't want to have to take a bath as well after you're done."

He complied, happy to sink lower into the hot water until it was up to his eyes. Opening them, he witnessed the miniature waves of water flowing over his muzzle with ease, creating small wisps of dirt that joined the rest of the muck he was sitting in.

The filly reached for a bar of soap and a scrubbing brush, offering it to her mother. "You can do the cleaning; I'm not getting anywhere near that much dirt."

Bone dunked his head under the water, shaking loose anything he could before resurfacing. The mother then went to work, covering the foal with soap and set towards a pattern of scrubbing his body and rinsing the brush somewhat pointlessly in the muddy water.

Deciding to counter the awkwardness of washing somepony she hardly knew, she struck up a conversation. "So, what were you doing out there in the forest all by yourself?"

"Uh..." Bone Marrow blurted, "Exploring?"

Bone Marrow's relaxation had been abruptly halted by the question, his anxiety rising by the moment now that any wrongly answered question might lead to him being captured for a bounty or reported to the Royal Guard. He couldn't help anypony in captivity, and he really didn't want to be hurt by a bunch of angry ponies either.

"You were exploring the Everfree, at night, all by yourself?" The Pegasus questioned. "Where are your parents? Do they know where you are?"

He bit his lip with indecision. If he told the truth he would have to answer an entire load of questions he really hadn't considered lying about. He didn't like lying, but the truth would also get him into trouble.

"They're... on vacation." Bone replied after a pause, his ears folding down from the brush scrubbing between them. His eyes closed as soap suds descended onto them. "They went to the capitol to... join the Royal guard."

The Pegasus was suspicious now. "And they just left you behind, all alone?"

"I had a foal sitter!" Bone countered a bit too hastily, "He's the baker, name of Sour Dough."

Sour Dough of course had been murdered some time ago in the mines of Scoria, but he doubted that this Pegasus would know about that. The brush had moved to Bone's neck now, scrubbing the sides as more suds joined the water's surface.

"What happened here?" The pony asked, brushing the scar along Bone's neck where the first crossbow bolt from the bandit had grazed. "Looks like a nasty cut you had some time ago."

"Uh, tree branch." Bone threw in as a reply, hoping she would buy the explanation. "Can we talk about something else?"

The Pegasus mother had a very serious look on her face, lifting Bone's head with a hoof. "Have your parents been hurting you? Did you run away?"

From Bone's perspective the question had come so far out of left field that he could only sputter in confusion. The mother took it as confirmation of her suspicions and set back to scrubbing the young unicorn with a lighter touch.

"Terrible thing to do to a foal..." The Pegasus tutted with anger in her voice that soon calmed after a deep breath, "But you're right," she sighed, "Let's talk about other things. Are you doing alright since last night? There looked like something was sticking out of your chest when I first found you, but when I came back it had vanished."

Bone realized that she had seen the crossbow bolt embedded in his heart as he had been pulling it out, and that was why she had run off soon after seeing him. The bolt must have been turned to ash like everything else when he died the second time, now that it wasn't technically a part of his body.

"I think it was a branch or something that looked bad," Bone replied carefully, "I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be around if a tree had gone inside of me, right?"

The mother took a moment to consider this as the brush moved to his shoulders. "I suppose you're right. Must've been a trick of the light." The scrubbing continued for a full minute of silence before she spoke again. "I've never seen that part of the forest before, and I fly over it every day when I'm working on the weather. Do you know what happened there? I found you at the center of it..."

Bone turned his head away as his eyes went wide with worry. How was he going to explain that? Brush it off as coincidence? Then how would he have been injured if he was innocently strolling through at the time? Perhaps a magical storm would explain what had been going on? He decided to go with that idea, seeing as his time to reply was getting suspicious now.

"I think I touched something bad and it caused a storm?" Bone replied with uncertainty and doubt in his voice, no small portion of that devoted to his own doubt that his ruse would work. "I don't remember much."

The Pegasus took a deep breath before a long sigh, now halfway done with Bone's torso and sides. "I suppose that some things are better left to mystery."

That reply worried Bone. Did it mean she didn't believe him? Did she already know that he was a necromancer, and that she was testing him?

She decided to switch topics, "Did you get anything to eat before your bath, dear? You're looking a bit thin under all this muck."

Bone examined himself, realizing that his rib-cage was visible beneath the fur of his coat. He hadn't absorbed any meat since his double-death incident, and it was probably taxing his body. How to explain his need for meat? He might be able to get away with it being a cultural thing if he included more regular foods with the lie, though he felt he was treading on quicksand at the moment with all the fabrications he was having to make.

"Ah... I'm just not used to the food here, I guess. I never left home" Bone trailed off, hoping that the mother would assume he was referring to his alleged 'abuse' than the true reason. Bone guessed that sometimes it was better to let other ponies come up with the lie so he didn't have to say it himself. Besides, if she wanted to believe that his parents had been horrible and that was his reason for being out in the forest, what would he gain by correcting her?

Her face scrunched with anger again at Bone's reply, huffing a breath through her muzzle before calming down again. "What did they feed you, before you left?"

Bone Marrow mumbled his reply. "Mm...meat?"

The Pegasus fully stopped everything she was doing to reel back a bit, the scrubber falling into the murky depths of the tub to accompany her gasp of shock and horror. "Meat?!" She didn't even care that her own hooves were covered in filth from washing Bone at this point, covering her mouth with disbelief. "They fed you meat!?"

The young necromancer submerged himself lower in the water, the rim of the tub hiding his anxiety as his ears folded downward and he became very worried. This was it. She would either freak out and reject him completely, or sympathize with the false history he had presented her. He felt a bit sick from lying to her, but the truth would be a worse alternative.

"I..." The Pegasus stammered, "I just can't believe they would do something like that!"

Bone thought he should reply to what she had said, but his heart was hammering in his chest far too quickly for him to think of a proper answer. He didn't trust that he would say anything that might be useful, but he also doubted he would be getting meat anytime soon from the Pegasus either. Only his eyes peeked from the side of the tub, the small skulls that sat in place of his pupils shining with a soft blue glow.

"Is..." she continued, "Is that why your eyes are like that? Did they cast some spell on you to force you to eat meat?"

He had forgotten about his eyes, shutting them immediately to retreat further from her sight.

"By Celestia..." The mother sighed, pulling herself together and adjusting the apron she wore that had become spattered with dirt and muck. "Such a terrible foalhood..."

The truth is harder to accept, Bone thought with sympathy, better that you don't know, I guess.

The cleaning of Bone Marrow continued with strained silence after the mother's revelation at Bone's assumed past. She was far too worked up from the thoughts galloping through her mind to comment on the bit of scarring she found or the oddities she discovered here and there on Bone's body. She assumed that most of the damage was due to Bone's terrible parents, of which she was convinced they had been monstrous for him to risk going into the Everfree to escape.

Some time after Bone dried himself from the tense bath he had taken, he looked into the bathroom mirror at his reflection. The same skulls sat in his eyes. His fur was white and pristine as ever, almost perfect. He looked a bit starved, seeing as his frame was so skinny and the bumps from his rib-cage were visible to the eye. He knew that some meat would fix that, though getting it would be a different matter.

"Are you..." The mother asked from behind Bone, causing him to flinch with surprise "Oh, sorry! I was just wondering if you... needed meat, or if you could eat other things, still."

He looked at his reflection, staring into his own eyes before seeing the mare behind him. "I don't get full from normal food, I think." Turning around and looking up he asked, "I don't think you'd have any meat laying around, would you?"

She shook her head with a mixture of sorrow and pity. "None, I'm afraid. I know of a pet store, though. I suppose I could say I picked up a stray that needs some meat..." She then realized that her comment wasn't too far off from reality. "I suppose that makes you a lost puppy for all intents and purposes, doesn't it?" She added with a sympathetic smile.

Bone returned the awkward gesture with a weak smile.

The sound of hooves grew from around the corner, the filly from earlier holding Bone's cloak across her back. "I washed this for you while you were getting cleaned. Figured you'd want it."

Bone's horn lit with his blue magic, moving the cloak from her back and fastening it to himself. He pulled the hood over his head enough to conceal his eyes, and gave a genuine smile. "Thanks!"

"You should show him around the town, dear. I have to run a few errands." The mother suggested, patting Bone on the head before leaving for the door. "Be careful, you two!"

The filly waved to her mother as she left. When the door shut, she immediately turned to Bone Marrow. "So, whats with those cool eyes you have? Are you a wizard in disguise?"

Oh no, thought Bone, more questions!

"Ah... birth defect." Bone blurted, pointing a hoof towards the door. "Should we go places?"

"That's a pretty cool birth defect," The filly countered with a sly smirk across her face, "I thought it had something to do with your fancy cutie mark being a skull too."

Bone was glad he had decided to pull the hood over his head now as his eyes shot wide open. How had the mother not seen his cutie mark? She had cleaned it herself with a brush and hadn't said a word! Bone's breathing began to hasten as panic set in. Was she really going to get him food, or was she going to report him to the guard? He had been told his face was everywhere, but did it have his cutie mark? He hadn't seen a poster, so he couldn't be sure. It would be the one way to identify him easily aside from his eyes, and nopony else would have the same mark as he did.

"Are you okay? Did I say something wrong?" The filly wondered aloud, trying to look underneath Bone's hood to see what was going on with him. "It's just a cutie mark."

"Ah.." Bone replied unsteadily, his voice shaking, "I don't like talking about it. Can you show me the lake you talked about instead?"

The filly was excited now, her smile wide. "The lake! I totally forgot you've never seen one before; you have to see it with me, come on!"

Bone was being pushed along the floor by the filly at this point, headed for the door. All he could hope for now was a chance to slip away in the town before anypony noticed him, or things might get very bad in a short amount of time. He couldn't risk the possibility that the mother was genuine in her wish to help him. Never trust strangers was one of his rules now, and he definitely didn't want to die a third time to learn that lesson again.

Scenic Sights

View Online

The door to the filly's house slammed shut and presented Bone Marrow with a sight unlike he had previously encountered. Roads of cobblestone lay under his hooves with moss and grass binding the rocks together in a way that made Bone smile. There were flowerpots with bouquets of all colors growing that lined the houses and shops along the street, mixing with detailed signage chipped from wood into fancy cursive script. A tavern combined with an Inn, a town hall that dwarfed the one he had grown used to in Scoria and a fountain in the center of the square.

Ponies of all kinds bustled and bartered nearby, concerned with their daily lives and happy to go about their routines while chatting with passerby's. Smiles, friendly faces and lighthearted interaction were plenty, and Bone breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn't seen a single poster of him yet. Nopony in the town seemed too worried about life unlike the other places he had been recently. It was idyllic, peaceful and untouched by the battles being fought between the Knights of the Sun and the Bright Moon.

"Come on slowpoke," The filly reminded him, "We've got a lake to see!"

Being pulled along by his right fore-hoof, Bone took the time to let his body do its own thing as he thought about his situation. There were no posters, no royal guard, and nopony was upset. The thought of the mare galloping to the royal guard to report him seemed less likely now, as he had been expecting a poster on every surface that would hold it in every town in Equestria. Bone decided he was possibly too far out from Canterlot for the Guard or Knights to place a poster here.

The Pegasus pulled the young necromancer through the streets of her town, swinging around market stalls and slipping through cheerful alleyways towards her destination. After long, Bone wrested his hoof from her grasp and followed along of his own will. After all, if there was no threat, why would he have to slip out of town?

Taking in the sights and sounds of the town, Bone was pleased to find a lack of dust or dirt practically anywhere that might get onto his freshly cleaned body. He had been wandering the land in filth for what seemed like years to him that being finally clean was a liberating experience that he didn't want to lose. His tail no longer clumped together like a dried paint brush, his mane flowed freely under his hood from the wind and he could tell his own muzzle from the ground once again.

"You don't talk much, do you?" The filly asked from over her shoulder as the pair rounded another street corner. "You're the least talkative pony I've ever met, and I've met a lot of talkative ponies."

"Just enjoying the sights is all," Bone replied sincerely. "I haven't seen anyplace this pretty before."

"What's your name, by the way? I don't think mom or I asked you."

Bone considered that he hadn't seen any posters thus far, so there would be little harm in telling the truth for once. "Bone Marrow, strange colt found in the Everfree."

"Bone Marrow, huh?" She stopped in the alleyway they now occupied, nary a window in sight. "That's a strange name for a pony."

"Oh yeah?" Bone challenged, "What's your name?"

She placed a proud hoof to her puffed out chest, wing feathers ruffling behind her. "My glorious name," She replied with an overly dramatic voice, "Is Scenic Sights. Daughter of the weather patrol mare, explorer of cool things and discoverer of strange ponies!"

Bone raised an eyebrow that couldn't be seen from behind his hood. "I'm a strange pony, huh?"

"Covered head to hoof in blood, muck and ash in the middle of the scariest forest in Equestria without a scratch on you, without ever having seen anything green in your life and overly fond of hiding your super-cool skull-eyes." She added with a wink, "Yeah, I think you're strange."

The young necromancer decided to play the fool. "What, nopony else has cool eyes?"

Scenic playfully poked Bone in his chest with her hoof. "Nopony has as many skulls on them as you do, and nopony looks at a town like it's going to eat them at any moment." She then scratched her chin and added, "Now that I think about it, I haven't seen anypony with skulls on them."

Bone was now becoming a bit worried again. Would she suspect something was bad about him because of what she had noticed?

She batted a hoof at the air, shrugging. "Nah, you're probably a good pony. Skulls are... decorative in some places, right? I remember reading about some tribes that lived in the jungle that liked bones and skulls a lot. You'd probably get along well!"

Bone's head tilted with interest for a moment, before realizing that he really didn't have the time to go on a wild chase for ponies in the middle of nowhere. He was lost enough as it was without hunting for legends in a book from who-knows-where.

Scenic gave a flat smile as reply to Bone's silence for the past minute. "You really don't talk a lot. Some ponies might find the constant thoughtful staring to be kind of creepy, but I think it just makes you more mysterious and cool."

"Um... you wanted to show me a lake?" Bone offered with some embarrassment. He realized that she was entirely correct as most of his replies had been from his thoughts, and nothing made it to his mouth. From her point of view he mostly stood behind a hood and stared at her while she spoke.

"Right, the lake!" Scenic cheered with renewed enthusiasm. "Follow me, quiet pony!"

Bone followed Scenic Sights through a few more roads and street corners before the two were at what could only be described as a half-completed dock. The logs were rotten from a lack of care and a single boat floated at the side of the pier.

"Ponies made weird houses to float across the water?" Bone asked while pointing to the boat in question. "Why would anypony want to live way out there? It'd be really hard to get food without wings..."

"It's not a house, silly, It's a boat! you steer it out with the paddles and you can go fishing." Scenic replied, her hoof arcing gently across the landscape at the vast amount of water and green trees that surrounded the lake. "Watch the birds, look at the town without wandering into the forest, you know, cool stuff that ponies can't do without wings! Not every pony can fly, ya know."

Bone nodded, being a unicorn he was well aware of that fact. "Just seems dangerous to me. What if you fall in the water?"

"Then... you swim back to the boat?" Scenic countered with a lilt of obviousness in her voice. "Do you... wait, you said you've never seen a lake before, so there's no way you know how to swim, is there?"

Bone's muzzle raised with confusion as he stared at Scenic. "Swim?"

Face swiftly met hoof with a sigh of defeat. "Of course you don't know how to swim." Looking to the sky melodramatically she added, "My plans, foiled!"

The unicorn pointed to the water, "Can you show me what swimming is?"

Her wings shot out to her sides, the pegasus looking ready to pounce on the water. "Sure thing! Just don't drown, okay? Bad things happen when you breathe too much water."

With a flap of wings the pony launched themself into the water with a filly-sized splash spraying onto Bone Marrow. Shielding his face proved somewhat pointless as droplets from the lake landed all over him. Looking up, he saw Scenic paddling with her hooves in a small circle, a wide smile on her face.

Scenic beckoned to Bone, "Come on in! It's not too bad when you're starting out if you stay close to the dock."

Bone peered off the edge of the dock with suspicion, unable to see the bottom of the lake through the water. "I don't know... It doesn't look that safe."

Don't trust strangers, Bone's mind swiftly reminded him. What if there was some kind of monster in the water that would react to him? He shook his head, staring into the lake from the safety of the pier. If there was a monster, it would've eaten Scenic Sights first. She seemed like she had been here all the time from how casual she was about everything, and she wasn't behaving oddly. The filly was simply friendly with zero malice. Did she count as a friend, rather than a stranger?

"It's okay if ya don't want to swim, Bone." Scenic called out while swimming closer to the dock, "Just thought it might be a bit of fun since you seem so serious all the time."

"Eh..." Bone Marrow half-heartedly replied, "I haven't met many good ponies, I guess."

Scenic smirked as she pulled herself from the lake, dripping water everywhere and shaking her body vigorously. Droplets flew in every direction as Bone once again shielded his face from the threat of moisture. "What-" the filly smirked, "I don't count as a good pony?"

Bone's nervous smile was visible from beneath his hood as he nodded his head, "Yeah, you're a good pony! I didn't mean to say that you weren't a good pony, it's just, you know, I'm not used to it is all."

Scenic tapped her hoof on Bone's muzzle in reply, adjusting what few feathers had moved out of place on her wings afterward. "Don't get so worked up all the time, life's not that stressful!"

Bone immediately recalled the numerous times that he had been killed and replied, "Well, maybe for you." Turning around he gestured to the town as a whole. "This place is like paradise to me. Nopony getting hurt, no Diamond Dogs, no guards wandering around and nothing threatening."

"No guards?" Scenic replied with interest. "Why don't you like the guards?" Her eyes then went wide with excitement, "Are you a thief? Oh, that would make so much sense! That's so cool; A colt that's a thief!"

"I'm not a-" Bone immediately countered before remembering that technically, seeing as the cloak he was wearing wasn't his, he was a thief. Sighing with defeat he conceded, "All right, I'm a thief. That's not bad, is it?"

"Hey," Scenic announced with a raised hoof, "As long as you don't steal from me or my mom, I'm cool with you being a thief pony. Besides, you apparently have to eat meat or something crazy like that? I can't imagine that's very easy to come by."

Bone's stomach chose that moment to loudly grumble. "Yeah... meat."

The two walked away from the dock in conversation, heading back into the town. "So," Scenic questioned, "Do you eat roadkill or something? Like when a chariot runs over a squirrel on accident?"

The young necromancer hadn't considered that line of meat acquisition before, but he threw the idea away as being an unreliable means of sustaining himself. How often had he seen a carriage in his life; once?

The Pegasus poked Bone's shoulder to get his attention. "You okay there, Bone?"

He now realized that since he had shared his actual name, anypony that was older may have heard it in passing at that it would spike their interest. Especially if they had a friend with the royal guard, and even more-so if they were a visiting noble, seeing that carriages passed by often enough for squirrels to be trampled from Scenic's account of life in the town.

"Would you mind not using my name in town?" Bone asked suddenly, unintentionally interrupting the next thing that Scenic was about to say.

"Oh," She replied with a conspiratorial grin, "Because you're a thief, right?"

The necromancer looked to the ground, his face further concealed from his hood. "Yeah, that."

The young pony's return through the town was uneventful, save for the few conversations that veered too close to the truth. The sun had begun to set in the distance and ponies had started to close their stores for the coming night, a few brave stalls still calling out their wares for fruits or vegetables and bread. This helped Bone's stomach none, and only reminded him of his need for meat as time went on.

Scenic was chatty as ever, pointing out the history of the town, interesting landmarks and the ponies that she knew as they happened by. She was also getting used to Bone's lack of input with her observations and quickly took over speaking for both of them as they wandered through the town with the aim of returning to Scenic's home and spoke with passing ponies.

Approaching the door, Bone placed a hoof on Scenic's side to get her attention. "Hey, when we go inside, can you not mention anything we talked about to your mom?"

Her ears folded at that, her smile deflated. "Aw, but you're so weird and interesting! What am I gonna tell mom; that we wandered around town, stared at a lake and that was it?"

Bone bit his lip that he was asking his new possible friend to lie for him to her parents when he already felt sick from the lying he had done in a single day. With a sigh he replied with a firm, "Yes."

Scenic took a moment to turn away from Bone before knocking on the door. A moment later the two foals heard Scenic's mother yell for them to come inside and the door pushed inward easily.

A new pony sat at the dinner table of house. Bone lifted his head a bit for a better look from beneath his hood to notice that this wasn't a regular pony. Golden armor, a halberd with sharpened steel and a helmet adorned with a blue insignia atop of it. His heartbeat quickened as he moved backwards towards the door.

All too suddenly for Bone to react, the door slammed shut with a field of golden magic. The Royal Guard unicorn looked from the latched bolt locks to the small foal in front of him as Scenic took a step to the side with confusion.

"Mom?" She asked, looking between the guard and her mother, "What's going on?"

Never trust strangers kept running through Bone's thoughts as he focused his fearful gaze on the nearby halberd.

"Calm down, everypony." The guard stated with a soothing voice. "No need to get excited now. We're just going to have a talk with the Necromancer here is all."

There had been no posters, Bone protested in his mind, No way of anypony knowing who he was!

"You're a Necromancer?" Scenic gasped with awe, "That's so much cooler than I could've even imagined!"

Bone glanced with confusion at Scenic before re-focusing on the guard. He mustn't get distracted now, or this could end very badly for every pony involved.

The guard gestured towards a can of something sitting on the table in front of him. "Have a seat, Bone Marrow. Let's talk this through."

He knows my name!

"I don't want to risk hurting you, so please, calm down." The guard added, his hooves lowering as a gesture of good will. "We both know what happens when you're killed, and nopony wants that to happen here."

"W-what do you want, then?" Bone stuttered, his anxiety letting up just enough for him to eek out a few words. He was still inching his way to the door, thinking about how he would unlock it and make for an escape.

"I'd like for you to sit down and eat some meat, for starters." The guard calmly replied. "I can explain everything so long as we all simmer down."

Bone shook his head. "No way."

The guard huffed with agitation, his horn glowing and lifting the can of meat into the air. "I don't want to hurt you, okay? I'm not your enemy here." The can began to slowly float towards Bone, and the young necromancer's stomach gave him pause.

Looking into the opened can he saw chunks of cold meat that had been diced into small cubes. Keeping his attention partially on the guard and on the meat, He focused his own magic on the can.

Alright, just have to... do something to this meat, and then everything will be a bit better than before. How did I 'eat' this stuff again? Bone thought to himself, his body ready to spring away at any moment. I can't close my eyes this time or I'll leave myself open to the guard. Maybe I can do it with my eyes open if I think hard enough?

Focusing his effort on the meat in the can and paying rapt attention to the guard, he focused his thoughts on a singular word. Consume

A horrible screeching came from the can, startling Bone Marrow as he dropped it to the floor with a tinny clink. The meat had dissipated almost instantaneously, and the outer edges of the can had become rusted as the label was partially peeled and decayed.

Scenic stared with wide eyes at the can before looking at Bone Marrow. The mother covered her mouth with her hooves in shock, and the guard sat back in his seat. Even Bone marrow was surprised with what had happened, now understanding further why ponies were so afraid of Necromancers. He could only imagine what would occur if he had thought that of a pony instead of a can of meat.

"That was awesome." Scenic declared, breaking the tense silence. "Can you do it again?"

"Scenic, not now." Her mother scolded. "Get away from him, dear!"

The filly looked up at her mother and the guard before turning to face Bone Marrow. The hooded colt glanced in her direction once more, but the filly couldn't be sure if he could see her. Taking a few steps, she soon stood right next to Bone Marrow and wrapped a hoof over his back.

"Bone Marrow is my friend, mom. Even if he's a super dangerous Necromancer, I've been with him all day and he was scared for his life for nearly all of it!" She poked Bone's side and caused him to flinch from the unexpected action, "He doesn't even know how to swim. I don't think he wants to hurt anypony, even if he can totally destroy a can of meat in less than a second."

The mother was now more distressed at her daughter. "Scenic, please listen to me and get away from him!"

The guard raised both of his hooves, one to the mother and the other to Bone Marrow. "Everypony calm down, alright? If we all stay calm I'm sure nothing bad will happen."

She took a deep breath and conceded for the moment, her attention focused entirely on the threat of Bone Marrow and her daughter's proximity to him.

"Where are the other guards?" Bone asked, mistrust and suspicion obvious in his tone. "Is this a distraction while you wait for your friends to surround the house?"

The guard shook his head. "Nothing like that, Bone Marrow." His hooves went slowly for his helm, and he placed it gently on the table in front of him. "Please, take a seat so I can explain everything."

Never trust strangers.

Bone inched towards the seat, his own rules reminding him of what he was now breaking and that he was putting the lives of every pony in the town in danger. His eyes never left their lock with the Royal Guard, the glowing blue skulls just barely peeking from under his cloak's hood. Pulling the chair back with his magic and giving the pegasus mother a moment of fright upon seeing the glow of his magic, Bone pulled himself into the seat directly across from the guard.

The two held a tense staring competition as the guard thought of what to say and Bone thought of ways to escape without getting injured.

Finally, the guard spoke up. "Bone Marrow, I have a request."

The young necromancer looked up even more at this, his face now visible in full to the guard.

"I am the only royal guard in this town," the stallion began, "From what the filly's mother has told me, she found you in the Everfree forest and helped you get back on your hooves. We both know that you lied to her and her daughter here, but that isn't a crime. I'm not here to arrest you."

Bone's head turned slightly with increasing suspicion. "Then what do you want?"

"From where she found you in the Everfree, I am guessing that a bandit camp was nearby and you strayed too close to it." The guard explained further, moving his helmet to the side in order to move the decorative top of the headgear from sight to give him a better view of the small colt in front of him. "I need your help in removing the threat that the camp presents this town."

Bone Marrow didn't like where this was going. "What do you want me to do, kill them all?"

The guard shook his head. "I know that you're a Necromancer and that by all rights I should be attempting to arrest you, but we both know how likely that is to succeed. You could kill me with a thought, and I would leave behind a family. Judging from the filly's account of your personality, you don't want to hurt anypony, let alone kill them."

"So..." Bone replied, "What do you want?"

The guard took a moment to answer, as if marshaling the courage within to pose the question. "I want you to go to the town's graveyard, raise an army and scare off the bandits."

Bone Marrow could only blink with disbelief at what he was hearing. The mother was now even more horrified at the guard than she was at Bone, and Scenic's smile grew into a grin as the guard explained.

"I don't have the forces to counteract a bandit camp, and you do. Well, you can at any given moment." The guard edged his helmet a bit forward with a nervous hoof before taking a calming breath to continue. "I know of the twenty thousand gold bounty for your capture, and I don't intend to betray you for gold. The way I see it, is that it's far better to have you as an ally that I can trust than an enemy that could eradicate the town in a few hour's time."

The guard offered a gold plated hoof across the table to Bone Marrow. "Can I trust you?"

Never trust strangers.

Bone reached out a hoof of his own, and shook hooves with the guard. "I'm not going to kill anypony."

The royal smirked at Bone's reply. "I'm grateful for that, Bone Marrow."

Nightmare Night

View Online

The clacking of hooves on cobblestone and the blowing wind announced the approach of two small foals, one hooded and the other with a wide smile on her face. A glow emanated from the hooded pony in the dark night, worrying the grave-keeper.

"How can I help you ponies tonight?" The grave-keeping mare warily asked the two. The smiling one was beginning to creep her out. "Are you lost?"

The two walked further into sight, the filly giggling and whispering to her friend. The graveyard's metal gates would squeak occasionally with the wind's gusts, reminding the keeper of a ticking clock.

A brighter glow of blue came from the hooded foal and produced a scroll with an official looking seal. The foals halted in front of the gate and floated the document over. Unraveling it, the document was signed by the town's royal guard and spoke of express permission for the entrance of the graveyard after hours and the request for privacy.

Judging from the document, these two foals were part of a noble family that didn't want to be seen during the daylight hours mourning over the loss of an illegitimate sibling of theirs. Indiscretion on the matter was expressly stated to end horribly, and a regular sum of gold was to be payment for the intrusion.

Lowering the document and looking to the two foals with a degree of sympathy now, rather than suspicion, she turned towards the gate.

"Poor foals, losing somepony like that..." She mumbled under her breath while reaching for the keys to the gate. "You be careful in there now, you hear? The dead like their sleep, so don't go making a racket."

The hooded colt smiled, "I'm sure we won't make too much noise, ma'am."

The gatekeeper turned to see the pegasus filly stifling a giggle, which worried her even further. The document had been legitimate, signed and stamped with the royal seal. It also promised payment, and she could really use the money. Shrugging, the gate opened with a metallic clank and screeched open noisily.

Pointing a hoof towards the misting graves she stated, "In you go. I'll make sure nopony else comes by this late."

The two entered the graveyard with the gate clanging behind them, offering a single glance back at the gravekeeper before moving further out of sight.

"That went way better than I expected," Bone Marrow noted quietly, "I thought that would've gone horribly wrong at any moment."

Scenic tapped Bone's side playfully, "Come on, who expects two foals to be sinister? We're just out here mourning our dead brother is all. You know, the one we actually have and isn't fake at all?"

The hood tugged on Bone's muzzle as he got a better look at Scenic walking next to him. "You're certain you want to come along? I don't want to put you in danger anymore than I already have."

"Yeah, you've put me in so much danger I almost forgot to yawn," Scenic cheerfully replied, "All I've seen you do is act strange and crumple a can of meat. I want to get out there, experience the strange in life. I don't want to sit around town, being bored and watching the same sunsets over the lake for the rest of time."

Bone placed a hoof on Scenic's shoulder that gave her pause. "You have to promise me that if I'm injured- if I look like I'm about to die- that you'll fly or run as far away from me as you can, alright?"

Scenic was confused. "You don't want me to save you or find help?"

The hood shook side to side. "If I die, I will always come back. You don't want to be around when that happens. I really don't want you to be around when that happens."

"Aww," Scenic happily replied while wrapping her own hoof around Bone, "Necromancers really do have feelings for ponies! The stories were all a lie; Necromancers are actually cute colts that just want to take their filly friends out on a date in the graveyard!"

Bone huffed a sigh at that remark, yet also couldn't help but grin. "Just be careful, alright? You're the nicest pony I've ever met."

"Come on Bone," Scenic reminded him with a smile of her own, "You've got other bones to raise!"

The two foals walked along the neatly maintained pathways of cobblestone through the graveyard on the lookout for a crypt or mausoleum. Bone reasoned that if he was going to get skeletons moving around again with his magic, they would have a very hard time getting through their coffins and the dirt that sat atop them. A crypt would have the bones just laying around in small slots, just waiting for somepony like him to wander by.

"Think you should actually try bringing back a pony from their grave?" Scenic asked, "It won't hurt if you try it."

Bone shook his head, "They're just bones, how strong could they be?"

Scenic tutted with a raised hoof, "Ah ah, they're undead skeletons raised by a Necromancer. Who's to say they don't have super cool undead strength?"

The unicorn considered this for a moment before raising a question of his own, "What about the dirt left behind? Won't the keeper notice that I've been doing things with the bodies?"

"She was paid to stay quiet, wasn't she?" Scenic countered, "Besides, you could always have them re-dig their own graves and go back to sleep later."

Bone wasn't convinced. "I don't think all the money in Equestria would keep her from talking about an army of the dead rising from their grave at the command of a colt in a hood."

Scenic gave a sigh of acceptance at that. "I suppose you're right; I just wish it was easier to find a crypt, you know? It should be pretty obvious where all the fancy skeletons are resting."

The two continued their walk through the misty graveyard on the lookout for some kind of landmark or otherwise obvious building when they came across a large statue of what seemed to be a Royal Guard captain of ages past, complete with a smaller gate at the base of the structure.

The gate was locked and secured with a chain, making entry a bit more difficult than the foals had been imagining. Bone had no idea how to pick the lock with his magic and Scenic was at a loss, excepting a single idea.

"Hey, you know how you made that one can of meat really rusty?" Scenic suggested, "What if you try eating the lock?"

Bone's head retracted back in confusion. "You want me to what?"

"Try doing your magic meat eating thingy on the lock! At worst nothing will happen, right?"

Seeing no other option and seriously doubting the effectiveness of what was being suggested, Bone looked to the lock and chain and wrapped it in a glow of blue magic from his horn. "Here goes nothing," Bone added skeptically.


A very loud, very terrible screeching sound emanated from the lock and chain. Nearby birds had been scared off by the noise and by comparison to the quiet night around them, they may as well have been ringing a town's alarm bells from the horrid noise the lock made.

"Stop, stop!" Scenic shouted, tapping Bone on his horn and collapsing his grasp on the lock. "Look!"

Rubbing his horn and gazing back at the lock, he noticed that it had become very rusted and buckled in some places. Bone was at a loss for words, yet Scenic was only encouraged further.

"This is so awesome, seriously! You can eat practically anything, Bone!" Scenic cheered quietly, her ears still ringing from the noise.

Bone tugged on the gate with a hoof and watched part of the metal bars pop off and clatter noisily to the stone steps below. "Yep," the young necromancer replied, "noisy and awesome."

"Think anypony heard us?"

Bone slowly looked to Scenic with disbelief masked by the cover of his hood so that she only saw his tight lipped muzzle. "No," He replied sarcastically, "quiet as a mouse."

The two foals did their best to shut the gate behind them with zero success. Every attempt to close or bar the metal gate met with rusted out hinges and flakes of iron that stated the gate was going nowhere anytime soon.

Moving further into the crypt, the only light source was Bone's brightly glowing blue eyes that scanned each of the walls for the long dead he needed for his deal with the Royal Guard in town to work. Half complete skeletons missing hips, skulls or limbs were overlooked in favor of the better preserved while their hooves echoed through the halls of the town's crypt.

"This one work?" Scenic asked, pointing to a well dressed but molding body. It lay facing outward with a rictus grin of decay that made the filly uneasy. More than a few times already she had voiced her disgust with the actual dead, rather than her cleaned and romanticized version she had in her mind.

Bone was still a bit apprehensive at being so close to dead ponies but figured that if he was going to be a Necromancer for what was effectively going to be the rest of time, seeing as how he couldn't die, then he had better get used to the idea of staring death in the face regularly. Using his magic he moved the corpse around a bit, testing joints and accidentally prying off a leg in the process.

"Can't you just magic them alive?" Scenic asked while covering her mouth, "I don't think the rotten muscles of a skeleton matter all that much."

He sighed with agreement. "I suppose you're right, actually. The first time I did this I hadn't even considered what state the bones were in, let alone been so picky as I am now." He motioned for Scenic to come closer to him as his horn lit up in a field of blue. "Don't make any sudden moves, alright? I have to feel every skeleton in this crypt and I don't want to mistake you for one of them."

"Wait," Scenic interrupted as Bone was about to close his eyes, "You have to actually feel the skeletons of dead ponies with your mind?"

The glowing hood looked to Scenic. "I suppose so. That's how I've always done it." He then realized that he had also kept his eyes closed when he raised the dead, not out of necessity but out of both fear and the need to apply more concentration. If he was going to encounter bandits, he couldn't afford to expose himself to another crossbow bolt to the heart.

"I'm going to try something new." Bone stated, his eyes open and glowing enough to bathe the crypt in a deep blue light. "Stand close, alright?"

Scenic did as asked and practically hugged Bone Marrow for dear life as skeleton after skeleton began to glow with the same blue that her necromancer friend emitted from his horn. Wisps of energy had slithered their way through the open air in smokey tendrils that pierced the skulls of the bones nearby before they shook to a mockery of life itself and pulled their own bodies from the stone holes in the wall they rested in.

Clattering and rattling of bones and hooves clacking on the stone floor grew in frequency as more and more dead were raised by Bone Marrow. The young necromancer looked with awe at his quickly assembling army of the dead nobles and knights that could afford to be buried in such a place when suits of armor rose along with their corpses.

Focusing his efforts again, a second wave of magic went out like an ever expanding sphere making its way like a ghost through the walls and beyond. Glowing orbs of blue locked in the endless abyss of the skeleton's eyeless sockets stared back patiently at Bone Marrow as they assembled all around the two foals.

Regally dressed nobles with molding clothes and suits of armor stood all around him in a circle, staring and waiting. Scenic was shaking and clinging very tightly to Bone Marrow with a look of terror on her face, her previous bravado and nonchalance about the entire event shattering along with her perceptions of how long the dead truly rest.

"B-B-Bone Marrow?" Scenic shuttered, "C-can you make them look away p-please?"

With a thought the skeletons turned around in perfect unison, the loud stomps of hooves bringing complete silence as they halted.

"Are you alright, Scenic?" Bone worriedly asked, pulling her closer to him. "I told you that it would be scary before we came here."

"I didn't think it would be like this, though." She quietly replied, her eyes darting from skeleton to skeleton with slowly dissipating fear in the company of Bone Marrow. "They're not going to eat me, are they?"

Bone shook his head. "I'd never tell them to do that to anypony, don't worry."

The two shared a moment as Scenic's nerves slowly calmed in the company of so many skeletons. Mentally ordering one of the skeletons to slowly turn around, it sat across from the two foals patiently with glowing orbs of blue staring back at them through it's helmet.

Bone reached out a hoof and mentally told the skeleton to do the same. "See, reach out your hoof."

Scenic shakily did as she was told, joining her hoof with Bone's and the skeletons cold metal hoof gauntlets. Looking between the skeleton and Bone Marrow, her worries eased further.

"They're my skeletons. Without me, they'll just fall apart into the bones that they are. There's nothing to fear from a skeleton so long as I'm the one controlling them," Bone explained. He hoped that he was right, seeing as this was his second experience raising an army of the dead.

Looking over the undead in front of them, they noticed a few problems. "How are we going to get all these bones past the grave keeper again," Scenic asked as her cheerful mood slowly crept past her fear of the skeletons. "These 'ponies' don't fit in, you know."

Bone smiled at that. "When I raised my first army of the dead, I wanted to give them long black cloaks like the one I have so they'd look cool."

Running over the idea in her mind, Scenic quickly nodded with excitement, "That does sound super cool!"

"I also thought that ponies might be creeped out by a ton of ponies with glowing eyes marching through the streets in black cloaks, though." Bone added.

Scenic was quick to counter that concept. "But what if you wanted to feel safe? You said yourself that they won't hurt anypony. All they've done so far is have their bones bleached white, their rotting bits turn to ash and then stand next to us with big glowing blue eyes!"

Bone shook his head. "Other ponies won't see it that way. Think about how you were just a few minutes ago, Scenic."

Realization dawned on her rapidly as she sighed. "Yeah, I suppose you're right about that."

The two sat in silence for a moment as they took stock of the skeletons around them. All in all, the crypt had ten ponies with old and unpolished Royal Guard armor along with another thirty or so noble-looking skeletons dressed in all black garb.

"Hey," Scenic pointed to one of the noble skeletons, "Think they'd look good in a hood though?"

Bone's glowing eyes rolled, moving the source of light around in the crypt. "And where would we get that many hoods? Even then, we'd have to find some way to cover their faces and the bits of their clothing that are showing bone."

The pegasus filly smiled wide. "I know a few ponies that might be up for it. Call it a new kind of celebration or something, you know?"

The necromancer was skeptical. "A celebration in the middle of fall when nothing else is going on? What would we even say it was for?"

Scenic shrugged. "I don't know, maybe something to do with skeletons and spooky stuff? We could explain it all away as some kind of special event that the nobles in Canterlot are trying out as some kind of showboating. They really like one-upping their other noble-buddies, so why not have a fake one throw a party that they say will be every year?"

Bone was coming around to the idea, but he still had his own doubts. "What would we call it, Spooky Eve?"

Scenic had a different idea accompanied with a very wide and very smug grin. "Nah, we'll call it Nightmare Night."

The two foals decided that it would be best for the skeletons to remain waiting where they were so the two could gather what they needed to pull off their stunt. Scenic went the next morning to gather the favors that ponies had owed her for previous help she had offered with chores, cooking and whatever else they needed in exchange for very specifically black hoods. Others would notice her excited giggling and wonder what she was up to, and Scenic would reply that there was a festival coming up that she needed costumes for.

Word got around of this new event as each pony had their own idea for who started the whole thing. Now and again, ponies would see black dressed and scary looking newcomers enter the town. They would never speak and they hardly moved a muscle, but soon the town grew about as accustomed to them as they could, assuming that they were servants of some noble that was paid to stay in character and create a better atmosphere for this 'Nightmare Night' they had been hearing so much about.

The single Royal Guard in the town had been getting question after question from passing nobles wandering through the town by carriage about what all the commotion was, and the message was passed along that a new event was being formed. He added that it was a commemoration of Nightmare Moon's banishment and a warning to all ponies about straying too far into the woods at night. The costumes were supposed to be what ponies dressed up as, and what scared most ponies most were the undead coming back to life.

With growing enthusiasm and popularity, the ruse had taken on a meaning of its own as it spread from town to town by word of mouth. The idea was seemingly entertaining enough for the social elites who wanted nothing more than to have yet another excuse to spend their wealth on extravagant costumes of fright rather than adding a fourteenth suit or dress to their collection.

The regular ponies of the town had wrapped themselves with strands of cloth and whatever else they could get their hooves on with such short notice. A few days after the original rumors had spread they were all sitting in the town square with excited faces and curiosity about what the main event was going to be for the first ever celebration of what was said to be a new yearly occurrence.

Standing on the stage normally used for public announcements and the odd hanging, of which the nooses were occupied by a few decorated target dummies, Scenic Sights had dressed themselves with a black cloak and darker clothes, only her lighter sky-blue wings sticking out from the sides as she gathered the towns attention with the help of the singular Royal Guard.

"Everypony!" Scenic began before coughing and re-trying her introduction. "Hear-ye, hear ye; Town's ponies and foals of Galloping Glades!" She decided that was a far better beginning and continued, "Welcome, and thank you all for coming out to the first ever Nightmare Night!"

The crowd gave a few halfhearted cheers of skepticism about how long this night would actually last in the grand scheme of things. After all, nobles had tried to make practically everything under Celestia's sun a new holiday just so they wouldn't have to go to the courts and debate about laws.

"You've probably seen him wandering around town looking a bit shady, never talking to a single pony and keeping to himself..." Scenic announced with some dramatic flair, "Always out at night, and always staying at my place and eating all the cookies," She added, gaining a few chuckles from the audience, "The one, the only, Bone Marrow!"

Gasps of horror flooded through the crowd at the mention of the name. The Royal Guardpony, at the request of Scenic, had been placing the posters stored in his home all over town the past few days warning the citizenry of Bone Marrow.

"Fear not, fellow ponies!" The pegasus filly called out, her hooves patting down the metaphorical crowd's fears, "It's all for the show! There is no Necromancer here, for this is Nightmare Night! A night of terrors and frights that are meant to be enjoyed for fun and entertainment as we celebrate the banishment of actual evil from the land, Nightmare Moon!"

A thunderbolt clapped in the distance, courtesy of Scenic's mother wrangling a storm-cloud the day previous and storing it in her broom closet.

"Now, In order to keep the Night Mare at bay, you must..." Scenic paused, not actually thinking this far ahead into her speech. Thankfully, the other ponies in the crowd took it for another dramatic pause. "You must give all of your candy to her, so she doesn't come and eat you!"

Groans of annoyance came from the town's foals. They had been expecting to feast on treats and pastries later that night, and for as much as they were concerned, the rest of time from the size of their hoards.

"Okay, okay, My bad." Scenic conceded, "A bit of your candy!"

The crowd cheered as foals rushed the gallows and dumped a small amount of their winnings from pestering their neighbors about festive spirit before returning to their parents amongst the crowd.

With a look over her shoulder she nodded at Bone Marrow. His skeletons were in place away from the crowd's sight and assembled in a menacing formation. The plan was to march the silent army directly around the ponies and bring them out of town. The fear of the skeletons moving through the night along with the possibility of seeing a bone or two was lessened by the ruse of this celebration being all about fear and terror, and they hoped that it would be enough.

"What's that?" Scenic rhetorically asked as the sound of steady marching sounded from around the back of the town hall. "I hear hoof steps!"

The town quieted and murmured amongst themselves as their ears shifted and scanned for the source of the noise. Then, a few shrieks from the fringe of the crowd sounded out as the first skeletons were spotted.

Clad in black cloaks and masks, painted armor of white and silver courtesy of the town painter's donated paint buckets and moving with perfect unison, the army of the dead marched straight through the cobblestone streets with the whole town watching. Ponies were silent with foals and parents alike in awe of the display.

While the town was distracted, Bone Marrow gained a place on the gallows' stage and brought the army to a halt with a loud stomp of hooves that echoed through the streets. Turning in unison to face the crowd and stomping once more, just like the Royal Guard he had seen training in the town of Scoria, the town went silent.

"Thank you all for coming," Bone Marrow shouted out to the crowd. All eyes moved to him and gasped once more, being the exact image they had seen posted all around town. "I'd like to thank the Royal Guard Captain, Bright Idea, for joining us as well and helping us to make this all possible."

Bone's heart was hammering inside of his chest. This could all go terribly wrong at any moment, but so long as he had control of the skeletons that surrounded the ponies of the town, all would go well. His cool exterior was easy to maintain so long as he faced the ground, his glowing eyes illuminating the wooden planks below him as he spoke.

Bright Idea spoke next, taking the stage between Scenic and Bone as he was dressed in the same outfit as the skeletons that surrounded the town. Taking off his helmet and removing his hood, the crowd instantly recognized him and breathed a sigh of relief.

"I hope we didn't put too much of a scare in all of you," He began with a smirk, "But really, keep up the festivities as our friends from the nearby garrison make their way out of town. They're glad to help make this night one to remember!"

Bone mentally ordered the skeletons to salute and in unison the army of now fifty strong raised their hooves in compliance. The town cheered at the display, moving to the 'guards' to give them thanks and to congratulate them on their acting skills.

While the town was distracted, Bright Idea covered his mouth to whisper to Bone Marrow. "Get those skeletons out of here before somepony knocks one of their skulls off, would you please?"

Bone nodded eagerly, and the group of skeletons lowered their hooves to turn in unison once more, moving away from the town and into the nearby forest ridge like a group of wraiths marching into the night.

"Enjoy the festivities!" Scenic called out, "Enjoy Nightmare Night!"

Bone slipped out of town later that night with a heavy breath of relief. To his immense surprise, everything had gone off without a hitch in their plan. Nopony was hurt, nopony saw a skeleton and panicked, and it left an impression in everypony's mind about a fake holiday they had constructed just to move an army of skeletons past their very eyes.

Now, Bone Marrow realized the hard part would be dealing with the bandits ahead, hidden in the forest. Looking around at his army he took a deep breath. They had no weapons and only a few wore armor. He had no idea how many bandits he was going to be fighting, but he remained optimistic.

Even if he failed, Bone realized with a bit of remorse, his death would most likely kill every single bandit in that encampment regardless of him wanting to take them alive. His only goals then, was to not get killed for a fourth time and to either capture or route the bandits. Without any weapons.

"This is going to be a long night, isn't it?" Bone mused to himself. His army trampled the forest underneath their skeletal hooves and continued onward with the young necromancer leading the way.

Expect the Unexpected

View Online

Bone's small army of skeletons marched through the forest like an approaching storm as branches snapped and leaves were kicked aside from the steady advance of skeletal hooves. The young necromancer had wanted to lead from the front, but once he entered the forest he remembered that mere days before he had pulled a crossbow bolt from the chest and decided that it would be better if he directed his skeletons from the center of their formation. No sense in dying a fourth time for something so small as wanting to be first.

His search through the forest was uneventful for the most part. For some reason he had been expecting to simply walk into the forest and run straight into the bandit camp like it would be a simple thing to find. The bandits, he eventually relented, were probably far better at sneaking around and remaining hidden than he was. It would be impossible for them to make a camp if everypony knew where to find them, especially with the Royal Guard filtering back out into the backwater towns compared to the capitol now that the situation had cooled.

Bright Idea was scheduled to gain four additional guards to assist in his duties at the town of Galloping Glades, leading him to warn Bone Marrow of the heightened security he would face with the posters being set up for their fake holiday. The guards would know that the posters weren't a promotional piece for the event and would be alert to his presence if anypony decided to mention him in passing conversation.

Looking around at his army he was surprised to see a few skeletons not gazing directly forward, but instead scanning the horizon with their heads literally spinning on their spine in a circle. Looking in every direction without turning their bodies around had its benefits, he supposed, but it wouldn't be practical if he was going to keep any of these skeletons after his confrontation with the bandits. Bone Marrow could only imagine the screams and shouting that a pony's spinning head would bring along with the unneeded attention that would be directed to him.

Then again, Bone thought, I could tell the skeletons to not do that when they're in town.

Several hours later and accompanied by the the rising sun through the treeline, Bone was finally rewarded in his search with the noises of shouting and generally upset ponies. Looking around and hiding behind a tree as his skeletons stood obliviously in the open he noticed that none of the shouting was directed towards him, but rather somepony else. Peeking from around the trunk of his cover, he spotted a wooden palisade covered in leaves and bushes with a singular watch tower further behind it.

"Well," Bone murmured to himself, "this must be the bandit camp."

All I have to do is send in my skeletons, have them capture or run every pony away in a fright and sit around in case they come back. Bone stood from his hiding place and willed his skeletons to advance towards the camp. With the young necromancer behind them it was difficult to see where exactly the army was advancing, but he guessed that since they had yet to collide with anything it was probably going well.

"You call that payment in advance!?" A very offended voice called out, snooty yet rich with texture. "I'll have you know that the dent you would place in my armor with that club of yours is worth more than this entire camp!"

Bone Marrow was confused. Was this a captured pony that was shouting? At least he had armor, right?

The shouting continued as the skeletons filled the edges of the camp and blocked all exits at Bone's command. None would escape now that they had been distracted by this mystery pony, though it remained to be seen who exactly that pony was.

"You there, small pony with the group of visually disturbing goons, come closer!" The mystery voice shouted.

Bone was loathe to expose himself to the possibility of death and remained hidden within the crowd of skeletons. "Not gonna happen!" He shouted back.

"Very well then, cowardly one!" The voice replied. Bone could now peek through one of his skeleton's hooves at the pony and was taken aback by what he saw.

Covered head to hoof in golden plate armor that was scrawled with glowing runes or other kinds of strange markings, this pony stood far taller than the others that surrounded him. With the rising sun it was difficult to even look at him, considering the reflections that blazed from his armor like a flame. A long colored tail came from the top of his helmet that wrapped regally around his shoulder, decorated with silver and golden threads woven amongst the blonde hairs. Bone could just barely make out the eyes of the pony, as gold as his armor and hidden behind a small slit of plate that allowed him to see.

"I'll ask you again, ruffians and hooligans of the Everfree," The golden stallion continued, "Begone from this place, or I will see you all cut down in the name of profit!"

Bone could swear he wasn't hearing this pony right. Profit, or prophet?

One of the larger bandits growled and moved to swing their club at the loud pony before being halted mid-swing by his golden glowing armor.

"Ah ah," The pony scolded with a waving hoof of even more gold, "I told you that you must pay for the right to strike me. This armor is expensive, and I'll not allow it to be damaged by the likes of peasants with self control issues!"

The bandit attempted to wrench his club from the grasp of the other pony's magical armor to no success before it was set alight by the armor itself and melted into ash.

"Now then," The golden pony continued with an almost vile smugness, "Pay me money to strike me, or begone from this place before I retaliate."

The young necromancer could only stand nearby with his army in complete confusion as the bandits packed their things and attempted to leave, stopping at the skeletons that barred their path.

"What's with this?" A bandit asked, looking amongst the hooded group for a leader. "Which one'a you's the boss?"

Bone called out from his hiding place amongst the skeletons. "That'd be me, and you're not going anywhere!"

The bandit scoffed, "Fat chance, that."

The skeletons readied themselves, moving into a lower stance to pounce on the bandits as soon as Bone willed it. The fact that they had a habit of doing everything in a perfect unison only added to the fearful effect it had on the few bandits. Bone could count a total of eight, being somewhat thankful that he had brought enough undead to be overkill.

"Do you assist me, young foal with the startling escort?" The golden pony called out. "What amount do I owe you?"

"W-wait, you're with him?" The lead bandit stuttered, backing away from what he assumed to be a legion of guards from a noble house he had yet to hear of. "What do you want?"

"You're all under arrest for..." Bone began before realizing he didn't know the proper term for being a bandit, "Banditry!"

Looking to their clubs and crossbows and then considering the likelihood of survival they would have against the army in front of them, most threw down their weapons and sat on the grass.

"Great job, Boss. Got us all captured in one spot you did." A bandit grumbled.

The golden pony called out to Bone Marrow once again, seeing as he was still concealed. "Come out, pony! It is safe here, thanks to you."

Never trust strangers.

"I'm staying right where I am." Bone replied while moving from where he stood to another location amongst his army just in case this was an elaborate trap. He could only imagine what kind of things these bandits had looted from passing nobles or ponies and it wasn't too far of a stretch to picture the golden pony as being their actual leader.

"Why do you hide yourself? There is nopony left that would challenge you!" The golden pony called out to a section of skeletons that Bone no longer hid behind.

The unicorn colt decided to not reply in order to stay hidden, moving around to check the trees or other places a pegasus bandit might be hiding. Meanwhile, the skeletal army slowly advanced towards the center of the camp, corralling the bandits and the golden pony alike with their threatening march.

"Y-you know if you're going to attack me, you'll have to pay for each strike!" The golden pony stammered, now standing in the center of the bandits as the skeletal circle closed. "I'm not kidding, this is going to be very expensive for you!"

Bone was delighted to find a coil of rope amongst the bandit's camp, though he supposed it made sense with bandits needing to tie ponies up for ransom or to secure chests full of loot that he imagined they would have stashed around. He gave a magical toss of rope to the center of the circle.

"Tie yourselves up!" Bone called out. There was scarce breathing room now between the disguised skeletons and the bandits. The criminals quickly set to work with tying themselves, begging for their lives in the process.

The golden pony, however, scoffed loudly. "You think me a criminal?!"

"I have no idea who you are, gold pony. I'm not taking a risk." Bone called out once again. "We'll have a talk back in town when you're locked behind a jail cell."

The helmeted pony's head reared back with disgust. "Jail!?"

"What town are we goin' to?" A bandit asked while his hooves were being tied.

"Galloping Glades." Bone replied, "I have friends there that wanted you to be run off, but I think capturing you might be better than that."

A few bandits muttered curses under their breath at that. "Double crossin', no good, rotten lying--"

"I'll have you know that I am no bandit. I am the one and only Obscenely Rich! How dare you associate me with these flea-bitten criminals!" The golden pony shouted through his helmet's grille.

"I know you're rich," Bone sighed, "Your armor looks like solid gold and it has fancy magical markings on it."

"No, you idiot!" The pony scolded, "My name is Obscenely Rich! I am the richest pony in all of Equestria, and if you take me to jail this day, you make an enemy of me! Who are you to decide the fate of others? What is your name?"

Bone grinned, still hidden and not wanting to risk his own death with so many lives under threat, even if they were pretentious. "My name is Bone Marrow."

The group ceased arguing and grumbling, becoming nearly as quiet as the skeletons that surrounded them as cold understanding dawned on them.

"T-then..." a bandit stammered, "These ain't guards, are they?"

"Nope!" Bone cheerfully replied, "They're an army of skeletons I raised a few days ago."

"S-sk-skeletons!?" The golden pony, Obscenely Rich, stuttered with fear. "Skeletons!?"

"Take whatever you want, colt, just let us live!" The bandit leader pleaded pitifully. "I got a wife and kids!"

Bone looked around the camp, finding hide nor hair of the supposed family he mentioned.

"I mean, not here, but they really exist!" The bandit continued.

Bone took a deep breath and sighed, ordering his skeletons to carry the bandits and Obscenely Rich along with them. "We'll get this all sorted out later. For now, you're all coming with me."

As Bone Marrow weaved his way through the legs of his uniformly marching skeletal army he thought about just how he would get these bandits and the golden maybe bandit into the town at all. Last night had been a fluke that he couldn't rely on, as every pony in town had been told that the skeletons were actually members of a garrison from places unspecified paying a visit on their way through. If he returned with the very same 'guards' the next morning, ponies would start asking questions. More worryingly, they might ask the skeletons questions they had no ability to answer.

Bone shook his head. There wasn't any ideas popping out at him for how he would go about dealing with this problem. He could have the army wait in the forest with the bandits, but then without his supervision they would have a higher chance of escape. Marching them into town was out of the question, and he couldn't get close enough to Scenic Sights to have her ask the guard captain since her house was right next to the town square.

"Gah." Bone voiced aloud. "Everything has to be so complicated."

"Hey," A bandit replied, "You know what's not complicated?"

"What?" Bone asked to humor the captive.

"Lettin' us go ain't complicated. Ya just untie us and let us run off, yeah?"

"Shut up ya idiot!" Another bandit interjected, "You're gonna get us eaten by zombies!"

Bone decided to clairify for a bit of morbid entertainment. "You know, the skeletons don't eat anypony. I do."

"He eats ponies! I told ya to shut up; now you've gone and made him hungry!" A bandit panicked, wriggling on the back of a skeleton. "Let me go! I'll give ya everything I got!"

"You don't have a coin amongst you." Obscenely Rich scoffed. "If anything, you should be paying the necromancer to end your pitiful, bit-less lives right here. Better than rotting in a jail cell to only have the Necromancer come by to use your bones for his own nefarious purposes."

"Hey," Bone protested, "I'm not like that!"

"How do we know you're taking us to a bastion of civilization then, and not your own evil lair in the middle of the forest? I saw that mark of death your presence placed here, I know your plans of world domination!" Obscenely Rich was ranting now, growing in fervor with every word. "You're going to claim the lives of everypony in that town just to grow your horrible army, then you'll move to the next town, and the next, until the only ponies left alive is Celestia herself and you!"

Bone had to stop his army with that comment, climbing atop one of his skeletons to get a better look at Rich. "I'm nothing like that, and you know nothing about me."

Golden eyes peered through the small slit in Rich's armor to Bone Marrow, his own glowing eyes staring coldly back. The nearby bandits witnessed the small hooded unicorn's standoff with their previous captive and held their breath.

"I want to help ponies, not kill them. If I wanted to kill everypony, then why are you all still alive?" Bone continued, upset with the implications of being a monster that Rich was posing to him. "I may use the dead for what I do, but I can't help that. I'm a born necromancer, and it's my special talent."

Rich attempted to pull himself further away from Bone Marrow at that last revelation. "B-born necromancer?"

"By the princesses, this is even worse than I thought." The boss bandit sighed, resigned to his fate as he rested his head against the back of a skeleton. "Even if we ambush him, we're all dead anyway."

The subordinate bandits were confused. "What do you mean, boss? He's just a foal with a bunch of bones following him. You sayin' the plan ain't gonna work?"

"What plan?" Both Bone Marrow and Obscenely Rich asked in unison.

"Well, see'in as how we're all gonna die anyway, might as well spill the beans." The boss conceded, raising his head to better tell his story. "We was gonna take this fancy gold pony here hostage when he found our camp, but he's got some fancy magic on him that makes it so we can't hit him without payin' for the damage our weapons'd to. So, we was gonna go to the town with the rest of the stallions in the camp to raid the town and steal all the gold there so we could kill that loudmouthed noble and take his armor off his corpse. Then I could run around in fancy armor without anypony bein' able to hurt me, and we could take all the bits we want."

Rich now leaned his body closer to the Necromancer rather than the bandits at that, not having expected that they would go to such lengths after his days of heckling them for profit.

"Where are the rest of your friends?" Bone asked seriously. "When are they attacking?"

"Well," The leader hummed, "S'pose they should already be there, idn't that right fellas?"

The others nodded quickly, "Yeah! Already there, burnin' everything in sight! Rape, pillage, torture and stabbin!"

"You must be bluffing," Rich scoffed, "There's no possible way you would've known about the Necromancer before I did."

"Yer right." The bandit replied, "We didn't. Prolly wouldn't have done it if we did, but its already done."

Bone looked up past the captive ponies to the horizon before he noticed it. Pillars of smoke in the distance.

"He's not lying..." Bone whispered in disbelief. "Scenic!"

The necromancer leaped from the back of the skeleton he was riding to charge towards the town, the only thought on his mind being the rescue of his one and only friend. His army followed suit, the urgency of their master pressing them onward as they dropped the bandits and Obscenely Rich to the floor to gain speed.

"Ya won't get there in time, colt!" The bandit leader cackled, "They're already dead!"

As the young unicorn and his army of skeletons sped off into the distance, a bandit remarked, "Hey, how are we gonna untie ourselves?"

The rising pillars of smoke grew as Bone tirelessly sprinted to Galloping Glades. Skeletons near him dropped and crumbled in order to sustain their master, falling into a pile of ash as the magic they had been given was returned.

Scenic, Scenic, Scenic, kept running through Bone's mind as he moved with an unnatural speed to the town. He didn't care about being a hero anymore, nor did he care about saving the day or getting into a storybook or being praised by the Princesses for his deeds. His only care in all of Equestria was saving his friend. Please don't be dead, please don't be dead!

By the time he arrived to the burning town, orange with the glow of fires and hot with cinders and screams of terror, his army of skeletons had withered away to the mere ten that wore armor.

"Find the bandits and kill them!" Bone shouted to his skeletons, "I'm going to find Scenic!"

He realized what he had ordered was something he promised Bright Idea that he wouldn't do, but all bets were off now. They had threatened the lives of those he cared about, and there was no bringing them back as the pony they were. One life and they were done, and Bone didn't want to come around a corner to find his friend forever dead. Killing the bandits would mean one less chance of Scenic's death with every one of theirs, and it was well worth the price to Bone Marrow's conscience.

"Scenic, where are you?" Bone shouted into the roar of the fires around him. Crackling wood and splintering pillars fell all around him as the town went up in flames. Ponies ran from the inferno around them or helped others that were trapped beneath smoldering debris, lifting fallen support beams with the combined effort of their magics. Banners of Nightmare Night were strewn across the ground, scorched and barely identifiable from the night previous in their current environment.

Bone could hardly see in the thick smoke that blanketed the town, staying lower to the floor than other ponies from his small frame. If he died from inhaling smoke, then there would be absolutely zero chance that Scenic survived.

Where could she be hiding? He quickly ran through a mental checklist of the places he imagined. The lake, her house, the town square... One of them has to be where she is!

Seeing as the town square and Scenic's house were close together, he made his way there first. Slinking through debris and hiding from scared town-ponies, Bone was eventually covered in blackened ash and he could smell the horrible stench of cooked flesh coming from the doorways he passed. His mind was running a loop of wishing that Scenic hadn't died, that she was alright and simply waiting for him to return. If anypony had hurt her, he didn't know what lengths he would go to or what kind of pony he would become. She had been his one true friend in the short time he had known her. She gave him reason to look at life in a gentler light, to enjoy the wind blowing and the sound of birds singing. Scenic made him realize how reclusive and withdrawn he had become after his many deaths, and caused him to open up a bit more to her as they organised their fake festival.

Eventually Bone Marrow came to the town square and found it empty save for the burning gallows and decapitated target dummies that had fallen away from their ropes. No dead ponies, thankfully, but no Scenic either. Bags of food were dashed across the cobblestone streets along with personal belongings and the odd stuffed animal that belonged to some unknown pony. Shaking his head with frustration and forcing himself to focus, Bone moved for Scenic's house. She would be there, or by the lake, he was certain of it.

He found the door open with flame eating the doorway with a ravenous and all consuming hunger for fuel. He could barely hear anything over the cracking of wood and the distant screaming of ponies that were either being cut down by bandits or those very criminals being slaughtered by his skeletons.

Bone decided he didn't have the time to second guess himself, and braced for the coming pain he would endure to be certain that Scenic wasn't home. He leaped directly through the flames into the home's kitchen, his cloak singed along with his mane, tail and body licked with ash from being burned. He couldn't feel the pain just yet, only the intense heat of the fire.

"Scenic! Are you there!?" He shouted into the inferno as it grew around him. He checked room after room, enduring singe after scorch as his body burned and withered from the heat and the brute force of the flame around him. "Please don't be here!" He called again, realizing that if she was here, there was no way she would have survived.

With a final glance over his shoulder, Bone jumped over a collapsed support beam and painfully squeezed himself free of the archway, burning his backside and neck. Taking shaky steps down from the home, he collapsed onto the street beneath the smoke.

"Lookie here!" He heard a menacing voice growl. "Foal couldn't get out of the fire in time, could he?"

Bone looked up to see the sneering face of a bandit pointing a sword at him, and grinned from beneath his hood.

"Ey, what're you grinnin' for? I ain't a guard here to save ya!"

"I know."


The field of blue magic pierced through the smoke as the bandit let loose a blood chilling screech that was cut short all too quickly as his body buckled. Fur melted to skin and skin melted to muscle, then to bone. Organs ruptured and gushed blood, only to vanish in the cloud of magic that wrapped around the bandit's body as he fell to the ground. His bones snapped, his body withered and before long he was indistinguishable from the ash around him.

Bone Marrow stood from the ground, sickened with what he had done but without a trace of guilt. He had to find Scenic, and were it not for these bandits he wouldn't be doing any of this right now. It was their fault the town was on fire, not his. He didn't have the time nor inclination to see a bandit go to trial when they had possibly murdered Scenic, and the only thought on his mind was finding her. The fact that he had to kill a bandit in order to find her gave him little pause now. He would do it again and again if it meant finding her safe.

Bone sprinted to the lake, leaping over flaming storefronts that had collapsed into the streets as he followed the path that he and Scenic had taken so many times to get there. Maybe she was swimming in the water, hiding beneath it to get away from the flames and coming up for air? Bone thought, She has to be alive!

He ran past screaming ponies that begged for help, past stores and homes and one of his own skeletons that was in the middle of crushing a bandit's skull beneath their skeletal hoof, all in the pursuit of Scenic. None of it would matter if she was dead. He feared he would lose himself if he lost her. He had already murdered another pony just moments ago, ordered his skeletons to murder as well, and he felt nothing. Nothing but fear of loss, fear of losing Scenic, his only friend. Fear of losing himself to the tales that every necromancer was evil, was vile and destroyed entire towns wherever they went all in the hope of annihilating life itself.

Was he going to turn out the same way without Scenic? Is that what his life would come to? Bone shook his head to clear his mind from these thoughts, refocusing on finding his friend.

"Scenic, where are you?" He shouted while sprinting through the streets. "Come out!"

There had been no reply as he ran, and eventually he found himself sliding to a halt as ash collected along his hooves. No pony was here. No pony that was alive, at least. Bodies floated in the lake, some with gashes across them from a blade and others with bolts in their bodies. Bone scanned each of them, frantically searching for Scenic and hoping against hope that he wouldn't find her here. He'd rather he never found her than see her dead like this, just like his own town, dead in a ditch where nopony would find them or even know they existed.

Tears ran from his eyes that made smudged lines across his face. "Please, please don't be here, please Scenic don't be dead!"

Body after body, pony after pony, he could not find Scenic. His friend was missing. The town square, her house, the lake... what was he missing? She had to be somewhere, didn't she?

Bone's eyes went wide with hope, "The graveyard! At the Crypt!" Bandits wouldn't search the graveyard for survivors, would they? Why would they? At most they would search the graves for more to steal, but... "Oh no..."

He realized that Scenic, if she was still alive, was most likely in danger still. He looked out to the dead bodies that surrounded him and knew that if he was going to reach her in time... he would have to gain enough magic to do it.

Sniffling from his teary eyes Bone whispered, "I'm sorry."


The bodies crumpled and shattered, bolts withered and turned to sludge and the sickening sounds of fleshy compression lasted a few moments before a new layer of ash floated atop the water of the lake like a thin froth of death. Bone gave one final look at what he had done and convinced himself it would all be worth it in the end, and turned for the graveyard.

Using that many bodies at once gave Bone Marrow an adrenaline rush like he had never felt before in his life. The ground beneath him seemed to glide past his hooves in a messy blur as he moved like a ghost through the town. Past screaming ponies, past bandits and crashing through debris that dared to block his path, he could only hope that Scenic was alright.

He ground his teeth with worry, imagining the horror that he might find himself arriving at if he found her there, only to be too late despite everything he had done to prevent it. Turning proved difficult as he slid to a stop around corners in order to begin his hellish sprint in another direction, heading straight for the graveyard.

The gate was knocked from its hinges, broken and bent on the ground. Bone Marrow grew even more worried and made a mad dash for the crypt to find that its gate had been destroyed from the previous rust. He could hear voices coming from inside and his smile grew.

"She's alive!" He whispered with excitement, quickly running down the steps as his hooves echoed into the darkness that was lit only by his intensely glowing eyes. He didn't notice that there was so much magic running through him from all those he had consumed that it was practically daylight in the crypt, his eyes searching for any hint of Scenic and other ponies that might have survived.

"You hear that?" A gruff voice questioned in the distance. Bone's mouth shut into a growl. They sounded like bandits.

"Is that your friend, Bright Idea?" Another rough voice asked, "Your little colt friend here to save you?"

"Hey, is it getting brighter in here?" yet another inquired, his voice becoming audibly worried.

Blue rounded the corner and witnessed Bright Idea, Scenic and her mother all backed into a corner, Bright Idea holding a sword in his magic to keep the bandits at bay.

"Get away from them!" Bone shouted in his shrill colt voice. "This is your only chance!"

"Hey look, the glow was a foal." One of the bandits chuckled, pointing at the necromancer with an oblivious grin. "Think we could use his head as a torch?"

"Shut your face and look at his eyes, you idiot!" The leader of the group fearfully blurted. "His eyes have skulls in them, and they're glowing!"

The bandits took a second look at the colt in front of them with the black hood, looking none too pleased.

"So what? He's just a colt. Let's kill the guard and these two idiot ponies and finish lootin' the place." A subordinate bandit stated with a shrug.

Bone's eye twitched at that threat, and he had no intentions of letting them move another inch from this crypt. A burning anger welled up in his chest, begging to be let free and to erase these vile ponies from existence, to snuff out the flame inside that kept their hearts beating and to ensure they would never harm another pony ever again.

The young necromancer looked at the fear filled eyes of the ponies he knew. Of Scenic, her mother and Bright Idea. They seemed to wait with baited breath as to what he would do next. He looked to the indecisive bandits and thought back to the horror they had brought on the town he considered to be paradise, turning it into a nightmare that would haunt his dreams. Of the ponies they had murdered without a second thought in pursuit not of saving others, not of looking out for their fellow pony, no. They only wanted coin so they could kill a noble for his armor.

Bone Marrow snarled as the flame inside of him burned even brighter at the thought of letting these bandits leave without punishment, and he knew just what he could do to ensure that none of them escaped the crypt alive.

"All of you," Bone menacingly voiced, his speech chilling the very air around the bandits and himself as misted breath could be seen. "Die!"

The bandits eyes went wide before they each clutched their chests, collapsing to the floor. Grunts of pain and gasps for air soon followed before blood gushed from their mouths, their eyes soon rolling back into their sockets as their bodies twitched on the floor in a growing pool of blood. Bone Marrow had felt their hearts rupture from his magic, their lungs collapse and their intestines shred. Soon enough they no longer moved. Dead in an instant.

He took a deep, shaking breath as the temperature in the crypt returned to normal. His friends were just as terrified as the bandits had been, but they remained safe.

"Are you alright?" Bone asked. "Scenic?"

Her eyes were wide with what she had just witnessed. Bright Idea was speechless, as was Scenic's mother. As Bone Marrow approached, the adults backed away in fear from him. Only Scenic refused to move, looking up from the dead bandits into the blue glowing skulls that came from the darkness, looking directly into her soul.

She burst into tears, a smile filled with grief across her face as she was filled with too many emotions to consider. Bone caught her in his hooves and sat in the pool of blood, embracing her in a hug.

"I was afraid you were dead..." Bone whispered, his body shaking.

Scenic held her necromancer friend closer and let tears of stress and relief flow freely as the group of ponies rested in the graveyard of Galloping Glades, finally at peace amongst their unimaginable circumstances.

Paying for Mistakes

View Online

The four ponies stood in the glowing darkness of the crypt when they were able, Scenic's mother voicing concerns about ponies that would have survived the attack on the town.

"We have to help them, don't we?" She asked Bright Idea more than anypony else. "There have to be survivors, right?"

Bone Marrow nodded, "I heard a few screams and shouts for help on my way here."

"Then we should do what we can to save those who can be saved." Bright Idea announced, "Sooner or later it will be too late for anypony to have survived the attack with those bandits murdering everypony in their way..."

Bone shook his head. "They shouldn't be a problem anymore."

"Did you melt their brains too?" Scenic's mother asked with some measure of disapproval. "So much death in one day and it's not even noon yet."

"Either I kill them, or they finish off everypony else in the town." Bone frowned, "I know I said I wouldn't kill anypony, but circumstances change. If they threaten the ponies I care about, they die."

Bright Idea and Scenic's mother flinched. "Please don't say that word..." The guard pleaded, pointing to the dead bandits. "It kind of leaves an impression."

"I'm just glad you came to save us," Scenic interjected. "I thought we were done for until I saw the crypt glowing."

"How did you get here so fast, by the way?" Bright inquired. The group was now moving out of the crypt and stepping over the bodies of looted nobles and dead bandits to make their way for the entrance. "The bandit camp couldn't have been that close to the town, could it?"

The young necromancer shook his head. "I made a few sacrifices along the way, but all the matters to me anymore is that you're all alive."

Scenic's mother nodded quickly. "We're very thankful for you coming back, dear. I just worry about you sometimes."

Finally seeing daylight the group rushed from the crypt with Bone Marrow in tow. The skies were blackened by clouds of ash and the smoke of fire from the burning remains of Galloping Glades. Fires reached high into the sky, flickering and spreading to other structures in a desperate attempt to remain alight.

The guard captain was the first to speak, "No sense in staring, is there?"

Walking along the cobblestone roads of ash and embers, the group steadily approached the town, their eyes searching for movement that might mean a survivor. Windows were burnt out with molten glass dripping from their frames onto the ground beneath. Doors had blown open or fallen off and entire sections of buildings had crumbled into charcoal. Bodies of the dead were strewn about the street, some burnt and others with deep bloody gashes across their chests. The group encountered a few bandit corpses as well, their heads caved in by what looked like a hoof.

"Well, I suppose they did find stragglers..." Bone hummed to himself. He wondered if any of his skeletons had survived the inferno and willed them to meet in the town square.

"Who did?" Scenic asked while stepping around the nearest corpse.

"My skeletons. I told them to hunt the bandits when I got to town." Bone pointed to another dead bandit with their skull cratered in a bloody mess. "Looks like they hunted."

"Bone, are you alright?" Scenic dipped her head to look underneath Bone's hood with concern, "You've been behaving differently since all of this... happened."

"You seem to be dealing with everything just fine." Bone snapped in an effort to re-direct the conversation. "Why aren't you freaking out about your town being burnt down and everypony you knew dying all around you?"

She shrugged, a look of vacancy on her face. "I don't know... I suppose I still have my mom. I still have a friend, so it's not as bad as it could've been. I have ponies I can talk to about things." She looked to Bone again, "You sure you don't want to talk about what happened?"

The necromancer shook his hooded head. "Not right now. Later, maybe."

What happened to me? Bone thought, One moment I was in the forest playing hero, taking on the bandits and resolving everything peacefully. The next moment I'm sprinting back to the town and slaughtering anypony who gets in my way... Bone shook his head as more thoughts surfaced, Am I turning into a monster? All it took was the threat of losing those I cared about and I lost myself.

"Unhoof me, skeletons!" A familiar voice called out, pulling Bone from his thoughts with a snarl.

"Obscenely Rich," The unicorn spat, "What's he doing here?"

"Who?" Bright Idea asked, unsheathing his sword with a magical pull. "Do you know them?"

Bone rounded a smoldering corner to find his skeletons, all ten of them, had surrounded the golden clad pony of wealth in the town square. The fire in his chest sparked upon seeing him and the necromancer rapidly advanced on him.

"You show your face here!" Bone shouted, his voice amplified by his anger. "The fires haven't even stopped and you come to this town in the very armor that caused this to happen!?"

"N-Necromancer!" Rich blurted back over the heads of the skeletons that held him, "I can explain!"

"What are you talking about, Bone?" Scenic asked, arriving along with Bright Idea and her mother. "He caused this?"

"No!" Rich protested, "I wasn't directly the cause!"

The necromancer placed a hoof on Rich's chest-plate. "It's because of you and your greed that the bandits attacked. You are the reason these ponies died."

The golden pony attempted to push Bone's accusatory hoof away, but the skeletons made sure he could make no threatening move and he remained pinned to the ashen ground. "I'm not responsible for the actions of criminals!" He shouted through his helmet's grille, "I want to help!"

Bright Idea chose to interject at this point, placing a hoof on Bone's side and leaning past the skeletons to get a better look at the pony he was dealing with. "How do you plan to do that? The town is in ruin, the citizens are dead or hiding and the ponies that assaulted Galloping Glades were slain."

"There were survivors!" Rich coughed, a bit of the ash getting into his mouth as the skeletons shoved his face deeper into the ground at Bone's will. "I escorted them to a safe place away from the fires!"

"How many," Bone demanded, his skeletons relenting in their pressure.

"Thirty! Some are fillies and colts, some are parents!"

Bone breathed a sigh of relief, willing his skeletons to help the golden pony to his hooves. "And you were the one to save them?"

Rich nodded. "Flames can't exactly pay me money to burn me, can they?"

Bone's good will nearly vanished in an instant at that comment, bringing to mind that it was that very function of his magical armor that caused the bandits to slaughter everypony.

The golden pony put up a hoof in defense and added, "P-Poor choice of words, my apologies!"

"What do you plan on doing with everypony?" Scenic's mother asked, "I don't know how you can help us."

Rich turned to the matronly pegasus, placing a hoof on his golden chest. "Well, madam, It just so happens that I am the wealthiest pony in all of Equestria. For the time being, I am offering all the surviving ponies of this town the opportunity to stay with me in my manor." He gave a sideways look to Bone Marrow, "Even if they are... Necromancers, for instance."

"How generous," Bone growled.

Scenic's mother was the first to reply sincerely. "I accept the offer. I'm sure you'll do more than that, seeing as how you're allegedly the cause of all this?"

Rich's hoof dropped along with his drooping head. "That much is true. The bandits only attacked your town in order to get their hooves on my armor. So, I will use my considerable funding to rebuild this town, albeit closer to my own manor and closer to Canterlot by association."

Bone remained silent, thinking upon all the dead ponies that he had consumed in the town's lake previously in order to get to Scenic faster. His death had caused a corruption of the land... would his magic do the same?

"That all sounds well and good, but I'll still have to file an official report to my superiors in Canterlot about what happened here," Bright Idea declared. "They aren't going to be happy about a town being burnt off the map, but then again I was the only Royal Guard in the town at the time as well. It shouldn't be too bad... probably just a demotion or two..."

Bone raised an eyebrow from beneath his hood at the guard, questioning his priorities. The ponies of a town had died, technically under his watch, and he was more concerned with rank and punishment than the lives of those lost?

"I'm sure I can soften a few things up for you, Captain." Rich replied with a smug grin behind his helmet.

Scenic raised her hoof to get the attention of the others. "What about the other ponies?"

"Well," Rich replied, "I plan on building an entire town. Any pony that survived this catastrophe will be getting a new house, courtesy of myself."

"What's it gonna be called?" Scenic inquired further, her hoof dropping.

Rich grumbled and muttered under his breath. "I don't know... Ponyville or something," He added with a sneer at the name, "I'll think of a better name later."

"Let's get moving then, unless there might be other ponies around?" The guard captain added with doubt, "I can't imagine anypony who isn't out of their home already is still alive..."

"I'll stay behind and make sure," Bone volunteered, "There might be somepony trapped in a cellar."

Obscenely Rich shook his head almost immediately. "Oh no, young necromancer, you must be the first out of this town."

"And why is that?" Bone challenged, barely tolerating the pony in front of him.

"Well, by simple fact that you're a Necromancer." Rich replied haughtily, "If anypony is to be blamed for the destruction of an entire town, what is more believable to the stuffy headed nobles of Canterlot; That it was razed to the ground by a simple party of bandits in search of treasure, or that a vile and evil necromancer lead an undead army through the town?" Rich continued, slightly amused with his own brainstorming. "The nobles are going to want a full investigation and spells are going to comb every inch of the place. When they find the ashen remains of the skeletons you left in your wake, they're going to assume it was you that burnt Galloping Glades to the ground."

Bone lowered his head with a growl, realizing that Rich was most likely correct with his assessment. That's what I get for trying to help; Vilified.

A gentle hoof tapped the young necromancer on his shoulder, causing him to turn. "Hey," Scenic stated, "We know the truth, alright? It doesn't matter what other ponies think of you. They aren't your friends. We know the real Bone Marrow is a nice pony that just wants to help others, not an evil necromancer."

Scenic's mother joined in the tender moment, her own hoof resting opposite her daughter's. "We also know that you have an insatiable hunger for cookies, and no villain you've ever heard of likes cookies, do they?"

The young unicorn raised his head with a smile, letting his worries melt in favor of accepting the compliments of those he cared about. "Well, I guess we'd better get going then, huh?"

"Necromancer!" An ash covered pony shouted, shielding her shaking colt. "Get him away!"

The group had followed Obscenely Rich and his radiant armor plates to the surviving ponies. With Bone Marrow leading the rear and being flanked by his small group of skeletons it was only a matter of time before the group would have to confront the town ponies about the metaphorical elephant in the room.

"Now now, everypony, calm down." Bright Idea announced firmly, "Bone Marrow here is not your enemy."

"But I saw his skeletons stomping ponies heads into the cobblestone!" A voice protested from the center of the group of surviving ponies. "They were like demons!"

"I told them to go after bandits!" Bone protested, moving his way to the front of the group. "They were there to protect you!"

The ponies were frightened and skeptical of that, some shouting out that he was a liar and others demanding that he be hung.

Bone sighed and rolled his eyes. "That's not going to solve anything," he muttered.

Scenic was next to speak in defense of her friend. "He saved us from certain death in the graveyard from three bandits that were going to murder us, just so they could raid the crypt for bits!"

"Ah," A voice shouted out, "What's he doin' in the crypt then? Raisin' another army to finish the job?"

"Ponies, please!" Rich shouted over the rabble of survivors, "This discussion is going nowhere helpful! You've all been through an unspeakably terrible ordeal and you're suffering from shock!"

The ponies behind Rich gave each other a look of surprise as the golden pony continued.

"You need time to think everything over. You were all running for your lives, helping other ponies to survive and gathering what belongings you could. It's very possible that what you saw was your own fears brought to life instead of the truth. If Bone Marrow here were truly the evil you say he is, why are we all still alive in his presence?"

This gave the crowd pause as some mulled over what Rich was saying.

"Give yourselves time to rest, to wind down from this horrible day and to re-visit what happened with a clear head. I know first-hoof the kind of pony that Bone Marrow is, and he would never hurt another pony if he could help it." Rich continued, turning his head aside for a moment to give the young necromancer a conspiratorial wink. "He saved me from the clutches of bandits just moments before the raid of your town. He was nowhere to be seen when your town was attacked, was he? There was no synchronous marching of the undead?"

A murmur of 'no' and 'I guess' flowed through the group of survivors.

"For now, focus on the present. I, Obscenely Rich, The most wealthy pony in all of Equestria, will help you."

Bone scoffed, realizing that his rousing speech was little more than a sales pitch.

"I will escort you and your loved ones to my manor, where you will be able to stay, free of charge, until a new town is constructed for you." Rich finished with a bow, earning a few weary clacks of applause. "Gather your things, and our friend Bone Marrow will provide escort to your new place of residence with his minions."

"He what!?" A pony shouted.

"It's fine!" Bright Idea boomed, "He's under my watch!"

A few ponies muttered about the effectiveness of that watch, seeing as the town was in ruins now.

It took nearly a full hour of combined sweet talking, mostly performed by Obscenely Rich, in order to get the surviving ponies to accept the idea of Bone Marrow traveling with them. Bone decided to remain in the rear of the caravan, his ash covered skeletal guards taking up positions along the length of the group on either side. They were spread thin, but it was better than no protection at all. The fact that his skeletons marched with a tireless unison and never spoke a word only caused the ponies near them to remain even more fearful of Bone Marrow, imagining how quickly they could become just like the 'guards' that they walked next to.

Bone, meanwhile, was contemplating where his life was going to take him if this was the reception he was going to earn, even if he had done what he could to save ponies and be as heroic as he was able to manage. I can't go around all of Equestria pronouncing my name and intentions like Rich can. He's a regular pony, not a Necromancer. My name is covering every inch of civilization in wanted posters, and it's likely that I'll be spending most of... well, not most of my life. I can't die. I'll be spending a bit of my time hiding out in this 'Ponyville' place that Rich is planning to build.

A flash of inspiration came to Bone with that discovery, and he moved alongside the other survivors of Galloping Glades to the front where Rich was leading the group.

"Hey," Bone announced with his arrival, startling Rich, "I have an idea."

"Please tell me when you're nearby," Rich sighed, "You scared the life out of me." His eyes then went wide when he realized just who was in his company, and he gave a nervous chuckle. "Metaphorically, of course."

"What if I helped build Ponyville?" Bone suggested with a smile. "All I need are dead ponies, right? They could do all the labor and It would help the ponies see me in a different light."

Rich shook his head. "And suppose an architect was needed- which they surely will be- how would I explain the scores of undead minions with helmets and hammers then, hmm?"

The young necromancer deflated a bit at that remark, understanding the difficulties. "Oh..." he murmured.

"I know you mean well," Rich continued, "But ponies just aren't that accepting of seeing their long dead relatives and what is arguably their future selves staring back at them, constructing houses for a Necromancer in broad daylight."

Bone nodded and moved back to the rear of the group, walking alongside the two skeletons that took up the end of the formation. Well, that idea didn't work. I don't know why I didn't think of that before I asked. Now I look stupid.

A head peeked over the cart in front of Bone, causing him to raise his head. A small foal stared back at him curiously, waving a hoof at his face.

"What do you want?" Bone grumbled.

The foal was desperately trying to touch Bone's muzzle, giggling and making the noises foals make when they can't speak properly. "Pretty!" It finally gurgled, achieving its monumental task of holding onto Bone's face.

Bone was unimpressed by the small foal, half-heartedly attempting to wrest his head free of the pony's grasp.

Another head peeked over the edge of the cart. Older. "Oh, by Celestia!"

The father of the curious foal pulled their young away from Bone quickly, causing it to cry. "I'm very sorry, necromancer!"

"My name is Bone Marrow." Bone replied tiredly. "I'm not some evil foal's tale come to life."

The father looked to his upset foal and back to the young Necromancer's glowing eyes, the skulls inside causing a shiver to run down his spine. "W-would you want to..." he stammered, second guessing himself, "Would you want to ride with us?"

"Isn't somepony else pulling that cart?" Bone inquired, his head tilting to one side with suspicion. "Why aren't you walking with everypony?"

The foal continued its wailing cry, very upset with its foiled plans of touching the pretty eye'd pony with its hoof.

"I think they'd be more bothered with Frosty here crying than a bit more weight in the cart." The father nervously replied, avoiding Bone's question.

Bone's hooves ached from the walking he was doing, as well as his body's backlash from the adrenaline of before. "Sure. Why not." He replied, a nearby skeleton of his lifting him into the cart before resuming its march.

The foal, apparently named 'Frosty', reached out towards Bone with happy giggling and a bubbling of its lips.

"So," Bone stated in an effort to calm down the father, "Frosty, huh?"

He nodded, "Frosty Pie. Cute, isn't she?"

The filly crawled over to Bone, staring up into his eyes with a curious fascination.

"At least she's not crying anymore," Bone replied, slightly grossed out by the line of drool running down the filly's face.

A few more days passed, each one granting the group a better understanding of Bone Marrow and his intentions as they spotted bandits being scared away by the protection that the young necromancer provided them. Bone met with several other ponies in the surviving group, each anxious and fearful at first, but soon coming to a mutual understanding that Bone Marrow meant them no harm.

Bone breathed a sigh of relief as he met up with Scenic. She was speaking with a survivor and joined by her mother at the head of the group. Finally, I don't have to worry about ponies screaming 'oh no, a necromancer!'

"Hey Bone!" Scenic announced happily when she spotted her unicorn friend. "How's everypony treating you?"

"Better than days previous," Bone replied. He still wore his hood over his head, the action becoming more of a habit than necessity at this point. He also liked the air of mystery it gave him, yet more-so the fact that he was able to make mocking faces at ponies without them noticing while he wore it. "How are you holding up?"

She shrugged, her voice light and cheerful. "I've had worse days," She coyly smiled.

"Over it so soon?" Bone questioned.

"How long did it take you to get over your own town's destruction?" She countered quickly, raising a few alarms from Bone Marrow.

"How did you know about that?" He questioned, now on guard and suspicious.

"Bright Idea was telling me the story of why you've got a big bounty on your head, but I figured it was just stories." She replied, "Mind telling me what really happened?"

Now that I think about it, it didn't take me very long at all to put the past behind me, did it?

"Well... do you want the whole story, or the short version?" Bone relented after a thoughtful sigh. "We have the time for either."

"Let's go with long version, then." Scenic replied with a smile. "I'd rather hear it from the Necromancer's mouth than anypony else, ya know."

"Well, it only happened a few weeks ago I suppose. My family and I, along with the rest of the town were-" Bone began before being interrupted.

"A few weeks ago?" Scenic inquired, "Bright Idea said that he's had your posters for a few months now."

This caught Bone Marrow off guard. "Months?"

"Yeah; from what he told me, the Royal Guard sent a whole group up to the town to find out why the town had been destroyed. They went down to check out the mines when they found you, and then they retreated soon after. A Knight of the Sun stood watch with a few of his friends while they waited for you to come back, and you ran from them into the mines and got lost." Scenic explained before quickly adding the disclaimer of, "Well, at least that's how Bright Idea explained it."

"How would he know that?" Bone asked with suspicion in his voice, looking to the rear of the formation at Bright Idea.

"Said he was there." Scenic replied nonchalantly.

Bone Marrow stopped in his tracks, sudden realization dawning on him. Without a word he turned and marched down to where the guard captain was conversing with another pony.

"Bone?" Scenic called out to her friend, worried at the sudden change.

Why was he so calm when he met me? He knew my name and I thought it might just be because he was in charge of the wanted posters, but what if... what if he was the pony I met in the mines of Scoria? What if he was the pony that wouldn't give me his name?

Bone shook his head, "No, the magic is a different color. That pony had green eyes, not gold."

So who was he then, a Knight of the Sun?

"Bright Idea!" Bone Marrow called out ahead of him, grabbing the guard's attention. "Can I speak with you?"

"Sure, Bone. What do you want to talk about?" Bright Idea replied calmly, dismissing himself from his previous conversation. "Something on your mind?"

Bone turned around in order to follow the rest of the group as he met up with the guard captain, walking along his side. "Do you know about a town called Scoria?"

He nodded, "Of course I do. It was in all the official reports when I received the wanted posters of you. They said that you burned down the entire town, though I thought that was a bit much for a foal."

Bone was now even more suspicious. "Did you know anypony by the name of Deus Vult?"

The guard chuckled, "What kind of a name is that?"

Bone shook his head, "I mean, do you know a pony with green eyes, a blonde mane and copper colored coat?"

Bright froze for a moment before turning his head. "You spoke with Scenic, then?"

"Who are you, really?" Bone inquired, his eyes focusing intensely on Bright Idea's face. "Were you there when I died the first time?"

Bright bit his lips with thought before replying almost timidly. "If I remember correctly... I dropped a pole-axe onto your spine."

"That was you!?" Bone blurted with surprise.

"I'm sorry!" Bright instantly replied, "I was caught up in the moment and the commander hadn't told us a single thing about necromancers!"

Bone took a breath, considering his situation for the moment as Bright nervously awaited his reply.

I've died three times already. Sure, the first death had been partially by Bright Idea's hooves, but in the end... did it matter? I'm still alive after all; I'm a necromancer. Was it a mistake on his part? Maybe. I don't know what I would've done if I was the royal guard I always wanted to be.

Bone gave the fearful captain an appraising look. He searched Bright's eyes, seeing his own blue skulls reflected back at him.

What would I have done?

Scenic now chose that moment to gain enough courage to confront the two. "What's going on?"

Bone looked up to Scenic, a smile across his face. Motioning to Bright Idea with his head he chuckled, "Bright Idea killed me once."

The guard let loose a breath of relief, "I was so worried you were going to be upset."

Bone nodded. "I am upset. Being killed really hurts, you know."

"He did what!?" Scenic shouted.

A Letter Most Unsettling

View Online

The caravan continued its steady march through the forest, sometimes being impeded by a river or hillside that was unfriendly to the travelling carts that some of the town's survivors dragged behind them. Bone Marrow's skeletons would drive off woodland predators and assist the ponies with retrieving anything that had fallen off of their carts, and the young necromancer himself was becoming relaxed. No pony had given him a suspicious look as they all knew exactly what he was, and for the most part the town had grown used to the idea of traveling with a necromancer.

Obscenely Rich had taken the lead of the caravan, guiding the group of thirty or so weary ponies to his manor on the outskirts of the Everfree Forest. He spun tales of how large the building was, how the walls were covered with golden sheets of enchanted metal that glowed during the night in a most pleasant shimmer. He bragged about his own guards; their training, their equipment that he himself purchased for them, practically everything he could think of was drummed up to the point of fable.

The younger ponies of the caravan were enthralled by this, having no time to consider if they should cry for food or throw things at Bone's skeletons to see if they reacted to the abuse. The distraction was welcomed by weary parents and ponies alike, offering them a chance to finally get some restful sleep after the days of tense marching as the group slowly became accustomed to another.

Things were going well for Bone Marrow and his friends... and that made him worry.

If there's anything I've learned from Galloping Glades, it's to expect the unexpected. Am I being paranoid? I would've thought so before, but now... now It might just be a safety precaution. I wonder if there's any dead things we've passed so far? Who knows, maybe there's a bear skeleton I could use, Bone mused to himself silently. Maybe I could wander off and find a bear to turn into a skeleton.

The young necromancer rested his head on the edge of a cart he walked alongside. I'm thinking too much, aren't I?

A bright blue colored muzzle poked itself over the side of the cart, soon raising to reveal Scenic's tired face. "Hey Bone," she greeted with a yawn, "What time is it?"

The hooded unicorn looked up to the sky, noting the position of the sun. "Uh... probably noon-ish?"

Scenic yawned loudly once more, covering her mouth with a hoof this time. Blinking the tiredness from her eyes she asked, "Can you go ask Rich how much longer it'll be till we get there?"

Bone nodded, walking ahead of the carts towards the front of the line and weaving around his skeletal guards. To his surprise, the skeletons hadn't begun to fall apart. They marched onward just as well as any royal guard would've, despite the distance. Blue glowing eyes stared back at Bone as he inspected the ones he passed, each nodding upon seeing the young necromancer.

Reaching the front of the group, Bone walked alongside Rich as he was explaining yet more fanciful things he had at his disposal. Enchanted spoons that could feed a family being the subject at hoof.

"Hey Rich," Bone interjected.

The pony was startled greatly by this, his limbs flailing for a moment as he grabbed hold of himself. "By Celestia, Bone Marrow," He huffed, "Please warn me when you're nearby; you're quiet as a ghost when you move."

"Are we there yet?" The necromancer asked from beneath his hood.

Rich's shoulders slumped at that. "Not you too..."

Bone was curious, "What do you mean? Are we close to your manor?"

The golden armored pony pointed to the young foals he had been entertaining during the journey. "These small demons have been pestering me day and night about how close we are to the manor, and I'll tell you the same thing I told them: We'll get there eventually."

The foals blew raspberries at Rich, causing him to pull away from them and pull out a hoof-kerchief with his magic. "Vile, dribbling monsters," he muttered under his breath as he wiped his armor clean.

"Do you live with anypony, Rich?" Bone inquired. He was concerned that he might have to leave the group if those at the manor had a chance of reporting him to the royal guard. After all, everypony in Equestria had most likely seen his wanted poster and he didn't want to place anypony in danger because they helped him.

"Oh yes," Rich replied, finishing the cleaning of his faceplate, "I have servants, butlers, pets and guards all about my Manor... as well as a few relatives I wish I could throw out."

"Have you told them about me?" Bone worriedly asked. "I don't want to start a riot or something when we get there."

Rich sighed. "I haven't had the chance to send a letter or anything, you know? I've been stuck in a similar mess as you with the town of Galloping Glades being burned to the ground. Not exactly a prime moment to be sending letters."

The necromancer's lips tightened. "So we're just hoping for the best?"

The golden pony shrugged. "Unless you come up with some fantastical means of delivering a letter, yes."

Bone Marrow thought for a bit before coming to a brilliant idea, "What if I made a messenger?"

Rich looked over his shoulder at the ponies behind him with concern, "You don't mean..."

The necromancer waved a hoof to bat away the metaphorical implications of what Rich was suggesting, "No, not them. A bird! The first thing I ever brought back to life was a raven that had stolen my father's pocket watch. If we find another one, then perhaps we could have it deliver a letter?"

Rich's eyes narrowed a bit at that. "You have a very odd life, Bone Marrow."

Bone shrugged. "I've also died three times, but making a skeleton bird is what weirds you out?"

Rich shook his helmeted head. "Never mind that. If the guards don't immediately attempt to destroy your messenger, then it should be a sound enough plan. I'll just have to make the stamp extra large for the servants to see it and prepare in advance."

Bone smiled widely, turning away from Rich without another word to run back to Scenic.

"Hey!" The unicorn whisper shouted over the edge of the cart, "I got an idea!"

Scenic's head once again propped itself up so she could see her friend. "How close are we?"

Bone shook his head, "We're close, but we need to send a letter to the manor first so they don't freak out about me being there. Can you find me a raven?"

The pegasus was suspicious. "What for?"

"I'm going to turn it into a messenger raven," Bone replied excitedly. "A skeletal messenger raven!"

Scenic mulled over the idea for a moment before replying. "Yep, that sounds super cool. I'm in!"

For the next day Scenic flew over the Everfree Forest, attempting many times to capture a bird with little success. Scenic suggested that Bone use his magic to pluck one out of the sky, but the birds flew too far away for his magic to reach them no matter how much he willed it. Eventually, fate and fortune decided to smile upon the two young ponies in the early morning of the following day.

"Eugh, put that down, Frosty!"

Bone looked up from the ground with hope, turning around and moving to the back of the caravan to spot the filly in question playing with a dead bird.

"It has diseases on it!" Frosty's father warned. The filly cared little, flexing the bird's dead wings and giggling.

Bone plucked the bird from Frosty's hooved clutches, causing her to immediately cry about her toy being taken away. The young necromancer couldn't care less, however. Now he finally had a bird!

Should I call you Toothpick as well? Bone mused, Guess we'll have to wait and see how smart you turn out.

Focusing his magic and melting the flesh and bone from the bird with sheer force of will, he held the skeleton of the bird in a telekinetic grip as he brought it back to life. First the body, then with a second pulse of magic, the mind.

The skeletal bird squirmed in Bone's grip, releasing silent cries of alarm.

"Hey," Bone softly announced, "calm down."

The raven went limp, its glowing eyes staring back at the young necromancer.

"Toothpick?" Bone asked tentatively.

The unicorn's blue magic rested the raven on his head, and he stared up at the bird expectantly, a smile wide on his face with anticipation.


"Toothpick!" Bone cheered, causing other ponies to stare with curiosity about why a necromancer would be so excited about a tooth cleaning device before reeling back in surprise at Bone's newfound companion.

"Come on, Toothpick. I've got a job for you!"

Rich stared at the skeletal bird that preened feathers that no longer existed, nested on top of the necromancer's hooded head.

"I see you've finally found our messenger," Rich asked hopefully.

Bone nodded, jostling Toothpick a bit and earning a peck on the head as payback. "Yep! Now we just need the letter and a location, and I'm pretty sure he'll be able to find it."

The golden pony was skeptical. "How do you know the skeleton will know where to go, and for it to find us again?"

Bone looked up in an attempt to see Toothpick, but his movement only caused the bird to begin rolling off of his head. With a flutter of bones, the skeletal bird righted itself and hopped onto his horn.

"I don't know, actually..." Bone admitted. "Maybe I could just tell it to come back?"

The bird looked curiously at Bone, its head tilting sideways. After a second's pause, the bird pecked Bone's eyelid.

"Agh!" Bone yelped, holding his eye, "What was that for!?"

His eyes watered from the pain and they slammed shut. Before long, the young necromancer noticed something odd in his vision. He could swear that his eyes remained closed, but he saw through them.

Opening his eyes and looking behind himself, he realized something was wrong. He closed his eyelids once more, and saw the world through a different set of eyes. Judging from how it moved... it was one of his skeletal guards. One near the middle of the formation on the other side.

"What the..." Bone muttered, his bird shuffling its body happily atop his horn.

Bone focused his attention on Toothpick now, and his vision shifted as if through murky waters to refocus. He was now staring at Rich, though he was taller than he remembered being. He moved his head up and down, and noticed that it felt off.

Opening his eyes, he was lower to the ground. "Okay, this is really weird."

Rich was confused. "What, did the bird try to take more than your eye with its beak?"

Bone closed his eyes once more for the sake of confirmation and focused on Toothpick. Sure enough, his vision was elevated. Looking down, he saw himself. He was now standing on his own horn in the body of Toothpick. Looking up, he saw Rich's very perplexed face as they walked along the road.

"Are you sure you're alright?" Rich asked with a greater amount of concern.

Bone opened his eyes with a wide grin. "I'm doing fantastic."

After Bone explained that he was now aware of his ability to take direct control of his skeletal minions, he was confident that Toothpick would be able to make the delivery. He then questioned why a pegasus from the town wouldn't be able to perform the same task, and Rich explained that the manor was still far enough away that a pony would become too tired to travel the distance in time with their frequent stops. By comparison, an undead raven was lightning fast since it needed no rest or food to keep going.

The message was off in Toothpick's skeletal beak as it soared high into the air with respectable speed, soon vanishing over the treetops.

"I'll check in on Toothpick from time to time, just to make sure he's still headed the right direction." Bone explained with a smile at his avian companion. "Just when I think that being a necromancer is all doom and gloom, I discover something that's just absurdly cool about my special talent."

With a flapping of wings and a heavy landing, Scenic appeared behind Bone Marrow suddenly, wrapping her hooves around his chest and pulling him to the bottom of the cart with her.

"Gotcha!" Scenic announced with a smile before pointing up to the sky. "Was that the raven you found earlier?"

Bone adjusted his hood in order to see his friend better, "Yes! You won't believe what I just found out!"

Scenic was interested. "Oh, what's that?"

The necromancer closed his eyes, and for a moment nothing happened.

"Uh, Bone? Have you discovered nap-time again?"

From the corner of her eye she spotted something moving, and was startled to find a skeleton reaching over the edge of the cart towards her.

"Ahh! Bone, your skeletons have gone nuts!" Scenic shouted, moving away from the skeleton.

Bone giggled, and the skeleton made a similar yet silent copy of the action.

"I can control my skeletons and see through their eyes!" Bone announced proudly, "How cool is that?"

The necromancer's eyes opened to a shining blue, the skulls in his iris' seeming to sparkle. Scenic looked down at her amused friend and smiled as well.

"That's pretty awesome actually," Scenic enthusiastically replied,"Can you make them do anything else?"

A voice of protest came from the cart ahead of the two young ponies, "Hey, can you at least have some respect for the dead?"

The ponies sighed. From behind them, the small filly Frosty declared with a sad inflection, "Party pooper."

The group traveled onward, the young growing with excitement alongside their parents and elders as the necromancer's messenger returned with a new letter.

"We're getting closer!" A colt shouted loudly and was accompanied by cheers from the ponies nearby.

Rich was quickly opening the letter with a sharp part of his armor, climbing into a cart despite the grumblings of the pony pulling it to get a better look at the scroll.

To Sir Obscenely Rich of the Rich Family,

I regret to inform you that due to the arrival of this skeletal messenger, your home will be investigated by The Knights of the Sun for collusion with a necromancer.

The survivors are free to stay at your manor, should you wish it, but they too will be investigated and questioned by the Knights of the Sun. If you are cleared of charges and this is is somehow explained to our investigator's satisfaction, you will be free to continue on with your life as you see fit. Within the realm of law, of course.

Sir Red Tape, Knight of the Sun

Rich gulped as he finished the letter, folding it and placing it into his armor.

"So," Bone suddenly inquired, "What did the letter say?"

Rich's heart almost leaped out of his throat with fright at Bone's habit of stealthy conversation starting, holding a hoof to his chest with an armored clank.

"Bone Marrow, would you please refrain from scaring me half to death? I'd like to wait a bit longer before becoming a part of your skeletal army, if you wouldn't mind."

Rich thought of all the ways this could go terribly wrong, what with all he had seen in Galloping Glades. He was certain that if the Knights of the Sun knew about Bone Marrow's arrival that they would turn his manor into a fortress and that it would be an absolute bloodbath for both sides.

Looking to the expectant necromancer at his side, he knew what to do. "Would you mind if I sent another letter, Bone Marrow?"

Bone nodded without hesitation. "Sure, same place?"

Rich shook his head. "No, I have to call in a favor..."


View Online

Toothpick returned a few hours later carrying a new letter in his beak. Rich stated that the pony he had contacted would arrive in the following day and that it would be a good idea to set up camp while they waited. Ponies happily moved to the sides of the road, setting up makeshift shelters from any possible rain and set up cooking fires to make soups from what little supplies they had left. Foals played with slightly burnt toys, adults chatted with another about what they would do when the group arrived at Rich's mansion, and Bright Idea informed Bone Marrow of the best places to position his skeletal guards.

The day passed slowly but thankfully without incident. The sun rose and fell, and only a few howls were heard in the distance as Bone Marrow stood guard. He had noticed that he rarely slept or felt tired compared to before he found his cutie mark, and that his appetite for most things was non-existent.

Bone wondered about the kind of pony that Rich would call upon; that not only would they accept his request, but they would come all the way out in the middle of a dangerous forest to meet him. He shook his head with the possible ways this could all go wrong in a moment. One omitted detail, one false presumption and the pony would turn tail and alert the guard.

In the early morning of the next day, Bone was surprised to see something fairly large flying overhead. It looked to be a chariot soaring though the air with a single pegasus pulling it from the front. Squinting his eyes, he realized that the contraption was dropping in altitude and moving to land in the center of the camp.

His voice raised to a shout, "Chariot!"

Ponies awoke from their fitful slumber on the hard ground, looking in every direction for the source of the disturbance.

"Above!" Bone soon clarified, pointing directly to the chariot as it began to kick up dust from the driver's flapping wings.

With a heavy wooden clunk, the chariot dropped to the ground. The pegasus that pulled the device was dripping with sweat and breathing heavily as if she had rushed the entire way there. From the seat, a unicorn in a gaudy dress hopped out.

"Obby, where are you?" The unicorn called out, her gaze sweeping through the camp as she turned around in search of somepony. "Rich, get your golden flank out here!"

The armored pony came from around a cart's wheel, brushing off dirt and quickly trotting towards the newcomer.

"Duchess Lulamoon, you've arrived!" Rich politely greeted. "I'm amazed with how quickly you found us."

"Never doubt the Duchess' talent, Obby. You know that." Lulamoon tutted, patting him on his helmeted head. "Now, where is the pony you said needed a disguise? The Great Lulamoon's time is precious and expensive, as you know."

Bone Marrow had been watching the exchange while hidden nearby, only his hooded head peeking out from underneath a cart.

"Bone Marrow!" Rich called out to the general area, "I have somepony here who'd like to help you!"

The duchess' eyes widened with concern, "Bone Marrow? You mean the necromancer? The Necromancer?"

Bone's rules called out to him, to never trust strangers, yet if he was going to stick with the group, he would at least have to see where this was going. With a deep breath the young unicorn pulled himself from underneath the cart and made steady progress towards the two noble ponies.

"Ah," Rich declared with a pointed hoof, "There he is."

Lulamoon slowly turned her head to face him, half of her expecting this to be an elaborate prank and the other praying to Celestia that her face wouldn't be melted off in an instant. She was confused for a moment, before a small white hoof beneath her waved. Looking down, she was greeted by a hooded unicorn colt.

"This?" The duchess scoffed, "This is your Bone Marrow?" She rolled her eyes and gave a snooty laugh. "Please, Obby. You could at least hire an adult for a prank of this scale. You do know that this stunt is going to cost you bits, don't you?"

Rich coughed into his helmet's grille, pointing again to the small necromancer. "Bone, if you don't mind, could you lower your hood?"

"Who is she?" Bone countered, his skeletal guards already making their steady advance towards the newcomer. "A friend of yours?"

The noble pony was now slightly more worried as she noticed armored guards approaching her from every side. She took a step back towards her chariot and asked, "Rich, this isn't funny. Stop this charade at once!"

The skeletons halted, Bone Marrow sighed, and pulled back his hood. "I'm going to regret this," he declared.

Her eyes went wide as they met with the glowing blue skulls that rested within Bone's iris'. "It is you, isn't it?" Looking away from the young necromancer to Obscenely Rich she asked, "What did you do to get in all of this mess anyhow?"

Rich shook his head, "That isn't important, nor why I called you here. I need your help Lula."

"You," She challenged pointing to Rich, "You want the Great Lulamoon to disguise a necromancer!?"

He nodded.

"Do you have any idea how absurdly illegal that is? Do you know how many decades The Duchess would spend in prison for helping you?" Lulamoon was very clearly upset and Bone Marrow grew more unimpressed by the moment.

The unicorn mare considered her situation for the moment after a pause. She was surrounded by what would most likely be the necromancer's minions. He was capable of unspeakable horrors and he was also looking none too pleased with how their meeting was going. Judging all the factors, taking into account all that she could think of on such short notice, she came to a conclusion.

With a smirk the duchess replied, "Do you even know how much this is going to cost you, Obby?"

Obscenely Rich sighed loudly, "Would you please stop calling me that?"

With the duchess having agreed to assist, she gave a grand account of her own abilities. She was a master of Illusion, often assisting nobles of the Canterlot Court with their daily change in extravagant outfits and applying a few bits of magic here and there in order to make the rich look younger than they actually were. If they wanted to go out for a night on the town without drawing suspicion, they called on Lulamoon to alter how they appeared. Their coat, their cutie-mark, their mane, everything.

Lulamoon had been attempting much of the same things she typically employed on her clients, though one feature of the young necromancer refused her alterations. Every color the duchess tried, every shade, every combination of hue she could think of did nothing to hide one simple detail.

Bone's skull iris' refused to change. The color would shift, certainly; what never shifted to Lulamoon's magic was the skulls. Ever present, never yielding. It was driving her mad with stress. All of her masterwork abilities, her special talent, none of it would break through to alter the unicorn's appearance. Before long she sat down on her chariot's platform, head held in her hooves in focused contemplation. Bone Marrow took a break from the shape changing, using one of his skeletons to see how he had changed.

His coat was now a muddy brown, his mane a spicy red and his eyes... well. His eyes were a green and red striped plaid. She did mention that she had tried everything, after all.

"That's it." Lulamoon announced with a huff, "That's all there is left to do."

Rich, Bone and Scenic looked up towards her as she shuffled items around in her various bags. Standing up and moving closer to the Duchess, they were surprised by what she held.

"If even the Great Lulamoon can't change the eyes of a necromancer, then..." She paused, looking at the scalpel she now floated next to her. With a deep breath and following sigh, she set it aside. "Alright, Bone Marrow. You're going to need to hear the exact reason why the Duchess must do what she has to in order for this plan of Rich's to work."

Bone was now very suspicious, his eyes wide. "Hear what?"

"Hold out your hoof, the Duchess promises it's only for explanation."

Bone tentatively did as he was told, and Lulamoon held his hoof, placing her own over it. "Bone Marrow... I need to remove your eyes."

His hoof instantly retracted to the safety of his chest as he backed away. "You what!?"

The Duchess held up her hooves, "Just listen to Lulamoon for a moment, alright?"

Holding out her own hoof, Lulamoon blasted it with magic. Shifting from an icy blue into a hot red she explained, "When the Royal Guard and the Knights of the Sun scan you with their magic, any other Illusionist's craft would vanish in an instant." She projected a wave of magic against her hoof, and sure enough it returned to its previous icy blue. "The Great Lulamoon, however, is a master at her work."

She changed her hoof to a yellowish-red now, scanning it once again with her magic and received no reaction. "Sure enough, the ponies that you're going to encounter won't know the difference between my work and reality. The problem, however, is that your eyes refuse to conceal the skulls of your Iris'. No matter what I've tried, I cannot hide, blur or conceal them. I even made your eyes clouded once and you didn't even notice."

Bone was taken aback by that. "Really?"

The duchess nodded. "It might have something to do with your more unique nature, but the facts remain the same. The only thing the Great Lulamoon can do to conceal those skulls resting in your eyes is to remove them entirely. A scan cannot find an altered eye if there is no eye to find in the first place."

Bone shook his head, taking another step away from the mare. "There has to be something else we can do, like a blindfold or something?"

She sighed with sympathy, "Bone Marrow, what do you think the guards would do then? Simply lift your blindfold to check and you would be found out instantly. If you stayed away from the group it might work as well, but then you would be isolated. The guard would find you eventually, rendering all this effort pointless."

"There's nothing else we can do?" Bone shuddered, "Dying was bad enough; I don't want my eyes cut out of my head!"

Lulamoon leaned back into her chariot, a hoof rubbing her forehead. "Rich, The Duchess is never doing anything like this again for you. Ever. A colt of all ponies!"

Rich decided to contribute at this moment, his thoughts finally overpowering his own sickened stomach. "Bone Marrow..." he began, his words catching with indecision, "You can heal your eyes back later, right?"

"Just because I can recover doesn't mean that I want to consider being blinded! What if the guards figure out I'm a necromancer anyway!?" Bone protested, shielding his eyes from Lulamoon's sight. "I'd like to avoid pain!"

Reaching over, the Duchess pulled a large bottle from a cabinet within her chariot. The label read 'Workshaw Spirytus, 192 proof Alcohol'. "Lulamoon may have something that can help dull the pain. The eye removal will be as quick as possible."

Bone now latched onto a different subject, seeking to redirect the conversation away from his eyes being torn from his head. "Why do you constantly refer to yourself like you're somepony else!?"

Scenic reached out a hoof to her friend, wrapping it around his side. "Bone, would you want to leave the group instead? Maybe the guards will go away after a while and you can rejoin us?"

The young colt grimaced at that. "Then what? Where would I hide? The last time I wandered off into the forest I died twice from a crossbow bolt through my heart. I don't want to try my luck next to a manor filled with Knights!"

"Then..." Scenic replied gently, "What should we do? If you stay with us you'll be captured as you are. If we do what the Duchess is suggesting, then..."

Bone shut his eyes closed as hard as he could; his jaw clamped shut. What do I do!? Let them rip my eyes out for who knows how long on the gamble that I can be smuggled into the mansion? What if it doesn't work? I'll have gone through all of that pain for nothing and have to replace my eyes with meat that we'll get from who knows where.

"Bone?" Scenic asked, "I'll be with you the entire time, alright? I'm not going to leave your side until your eyes are back."

His eyes opened. Taking a shaky breath he looked up at the expectant Lulamoon and Obscenely Rich. Looking to Scenic he asked, "How much do you think losing eyes hurts? Is it a lot?"

She sucked air through her teeth with a hiss. "I... really have no idea. Still have my eyes in place, you know?"

A half hour passed. Bone Marrow asked every question he could think about for the procedure, including his distinct hatred of the fact that he would have to be awake for it to be completed. Lulamoon would hold his eyelids open with her magic and guide the scalpel she possessed around the edge of his eyeballs. Glossing over a few details, she stated that it shouldn't take longer than a few minutes in total.

The key to all of this, however, was the very strong alcohol she carried with her at all times.

"Alright Bone," Bright Idea inquired holding a shot glass filled with the horrible smelling liquid, "are you ready?"

Bone took hold of the glass with his magic, careful not to spill it on the ground for fear that it might explode as soon as it hit the dirt. "What is this exactly?"

"Liquid fire," Lulamoon explained nonchalantly. "Fairly popular in Workshaw but the Duchess always keeps a bottle stocked for special occasion." Looking over her shoulder she added, "The Great Lulamoon would say that this situation qualifies."

The young necromancer sniffed the liquid before instantly coughing and moving it away from his mouth. "It smells like Tartarus!"

Bright Idea shrugged, "You get used to it eventually."

Looking back at the shot glass and glancing at the scalpel in the distance, Bone grimaced. "How do I drink this without dying? I know I'd come back, but still."

Bright Idea explained step-by-step. "Take a deep breath away from the shot glass, exhale all of your air, bring the glass close, drink as much of it as you can, pull away from the glass, breathe in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth."

Bone gulped, looking at the drink like poison. "Here goes."

He took a deep breath, exhaled, brought his muzzle close and drank. He hadn't been expecting the taste, nor the burning sensation as he attempted to drink as much as possible before his head began to shake. He coughed, sputtering some of the liquid out in front of him as the glass dropped to the ground. Holding his throat he moved further away from the drink and attempted to catch his breath.

In a gravelly colt voice he declared, "That is the most horrible thing I've ever tasted in my life!"

Coughing again, the nearby adults gave a pitied chuckle, knowing in the back of their minds what the point of the alcohol was for. If they were lucky, a few more shots would numb the colt enough that he might be able to withstand the pain.

"Remind me again why I have to be awake for this?" Bone rumbled with alcohol scorched vocal chords.

"The Duchess hadn't planned on surgery today." Lulamoon explained, "All the tools normally used are far away from here and if you don't arrive at Rich's manor soon, the Knights of the Sun will come looking for you all. It would be far more difficult to explain why a necromancer is being operated on in the middle of a forest than suggesting that you are an injured survivor of Galloping Glades. In the ideal situation you would be rendered unconscious by powerful mixtures, but I have none on hoof at the moment. Staying awake is the only way we can be certain that nothing is going wrong with the operation. If you pass out, we'll know to run away from you before we all become ash."

Rich nodded his head, "To be fair, it wouldn't be lying. We're all survivors of Galloping Glades, and with you missing your eyes you would be injured."

Rubbing his throat Bone croaked out a sarcastic, "Wonderful."

Bright Idea lifted the shot glass once more. "Ready?"

Bone's eyes went wide at the sight of more alcohol. "One wasn't enough!?"

By the time Bone Marrow was declared drunk enough to remove his eyeballs safely, he was hardly coherent.

"Issit over yet? I can't see-eeee." Bone stammered, his head rolling from side to side from his position on the ground. His back was to the floor and his hooves curled up close to his body, his eyes slowly blinking. "I think I'm gonna die."

"You'll be fine Bone," Scenic replied, brushing his mane away from his face. "At least I hope so."

"Hehe, Hopesso Espresso." Bone rambled, giggling at the words his mind made up and the noises they made when being spoken aloud. "Comin' down town a-brero with my-"

The colt nearly vomited at that, holding his mouth for a moment to let things settle. "Eugh."

"A few minutes is all we need, Bone Marrow." Lulamoon moved over Bone's prone body, her magic already peeling his eyelids back. Raising her head she shouted, "I need ponies to hold him down!"

Rich, Bright Idea, Scenic and the pegasus chariot puller each took up positions around Bone Marrow. Each held one of his hooves in place with Bright and Rich holding the colt's head down as well.

"Are my eyes supposed to feel like they're falling apart?" Bone asked. The scalpel was quick to move to his eyes, already beginning the incisions needed to remove the fleshy orbs.

Bone immediately shouted with pain as his brain finally understood what was happening. His eyelids fought to close themselves against the cold metallic intruder's sharp blade to no success, only getting cut to ribbons in the process. Try as he might, Bone squirmed and attempted to turn his head away from the sharp device, moving to spare his sight just a moment longer.

"Hold him steady!" Lulamoon commanded, forcing his head to hold still with more of her magic as she continued carving out his right eye.

"Make it stop!" Bone shouted, still trying to turn away as the alcohol quickly wore off. He could feel the pain, however much it was dulled. His face was numb along with most of his body, but he could feel the pressure, the steady movements of the blade along his eye. "Aaagh!"

He clenched his jaw hard, pained breath seething through his teeth as the other ponies struggled to hold him. His breathing quickened as his sight began to darken and his mind called out in a panic.

Darkness! Blind!

The slicing stopped, shouting came up from those around the young necromancer.

"Bone please!" he could hear Rich shout, "Stop using your magic; we're trying to help you!"

"I can't see!" Scenic cried out.

With half of his right eye still remaining in chunks on his face, Bone did what he could to calm down. Vision returned to his unharmed left eye, and the nearby ponies shakily resumed their stations.

"I'm so sorry, Bone." Rich pleaded, "We shouldn't have sent the messenger, I shouldn't have brought it up!"

The colt reached out blindly with his hoof until the golden pony caught it. "H-hey," Bone stammered. He could feel the pain but his mind was still sluggish. "It's either this or bliss, right?"

The noble shook his head in confusion, "What?"

Bone blinked and immediately regretted it. He could feel part of his eye colliding roughly with his shredded eyelid and nearly panicked. "I-I mean that if I don't get blinded, you all get in trouble! I can't think good with all this fog in my head..."

"You're doing great," Scenic replied encouragingly. She was doing her best to keep a stoic face but her eyes spoke only of the horror she was witnessing. "You'll get through this, o-okay?"

Bone opened what was left of his eyes wide once again as they were taken hold of in Lulamoon's magic. "I hope so, cause if I die, we have to do this all over again..."

The other five ponies shared a grim look with each other, uncertain if they would be able to look themselves in the mirror after this ordeal let alone attempt it again. Bone held his hooves close to his body as well as he could, his body shaking and the right side of his face feeling wet with tears and blood. He took a trembling breath and nodded, the bit of his right eye still hanging loose from his face.

The blade descended once more, moving faster this time albeit more sloppily. Lulamoon decided that the perfection of the operation didn't matter, only that the necromancer's skull cursed eyes no longer gave him away. A hasty cut removed what remained of the right eye turning it into a fleshy bleeding crater in the colt's face. Her breathing became rapid as her own conscience caught up with her, asking what choices she made in life that brought her to cutting out somepony's eyes in the middle of a forest.

Redoubling her efforts, the Duchess moved on to the left eye. Making similar incisions and fighting against the kicks and screams of the poor colt under her knife she operated as fast as she could, trying to keep to her promise of only a few minutes' pain. Her worries about infection and cleanliness died at the wayside when she realized that Bone was capable of returning from the dead. To him, she imagined, a surgical infection was an inconvenience at most.

The flyer of the chariot, meanwhile, was seriously considering her paygrade's ability to keep her sleeping peacefully at night.

When all was finished and Bone's eyes had been removed, the camp was silent. Everypony had heard what was going on. How could they not? They witnessed a young colt have their eyes gouged out surgically on a dirt road in the middle of a forest. A necromancer's eyes. The kind of ponies that were supposed to be the most horrid of monsters that ever were, and here was Bone Marrow allowing others to slice out his very eyes all for the sake of those around him being able to live peacefully without the Knights of the Sun or the Royal Guard breathing down their necks with the threat of imprisonment or worse.

The few ponies that had their doubts about Bone Marrow's true motives were replaced by the screams that would be seared into their minds for the rest of their lives.

During the surgery each of Bone Marrow's minions had crumbled into dust. Each giving back the magic they had received in order to dull the pain of their master. It hadn't helped. Even with what little numbing the alcohol could provide, Bone Marrow shook with pain. Each movement of his eyes brought only more suffering and he was barely able to speak.

Lulamoon wrapped a bandage around Bone's head. Rich muttered appreciation for her help, and soon the mare parted ways from the group. Scenic lead her now sightless friend to a cart, each pony offering to take him aboard. She walked him along the entire stretch to the very end and helped him climb aboard.

Frosty's father looked with horror at the colt he had been so terrified of the entire trip, so worried had he been that Bone would suddenly turn on them all and devour the souls of everypony present. No more, however, was he concerned about that. He could only stare as the colt was lowered to rest on his side, disguised with magic that had changed his coat colors, mane and cutie mark to become a completely different pony.

The filly named Frosty stumbled over to Bone Marrow, taking a seat next to him. Reaching out slowly with her hoof and resting it on Bone's muzzle, she startled him.

"Still pretty."

Massive Manor Most Magnificently Magnanimous

View Online

Obscenely Rich's place of residence was less a mansion and more like a castle. High walls were useless against pegasus of course, but the guards that dotted the walls kept watch with crossbows held in their magical grip. Large banners decorated the large front gate; One of the Equestrian flag and the other adorned with a green background with gold bits in each corner, a larger symbol of a coin purse in the center.

The golden pony lead the group to the stone archway, the drawbridge already lowered to allow passage when the guards recognized their employer. Standing in the way of the survivor's progress however was a large group of the Knights of the Sun. Mages wearing bright yellow robes, Knights and Ponies-at-arms filling out the ranks with a singular pony leading them.

Green eyes, a copper colored coat and blonde mane.

"Sir Rich," The pony called out, "You're quite late for a pony escaping a raided town. I would've thought you to have more urgency in your step."

Rich rolled his eyes, his face shielded by the plate of his helmet. "I won't leave a pony behind, even if it takes longer to get here. You should know that, and I have injured ponies that need rest and treatment."

The two ponies met halfway in the center of the drawbridge. The Knight's eyes narrowed with suspicion, "What happened to the Necromancer, noble?"

"When his raven returned he intercepted the letter your subordinate sent back," Rich explained with flawless poise, "He must have cast some kind of spell on us; The world went completely absent of light for moments and we were blinded. When our sight returned, the necromancer and his minions had gone."

The knight was doubtful of this. Looking past Rich towards the waiting caravan of ponies behind him he called out, "Move forward for inspection!"

Scenic shook her friend awake as carefully as she could; the young necromancer wincing with pain and immediately regretting the attempt to look around. His freshly cut eyes stung with every movement despite what treatment Countess Lulamoon could give him. Her recommendation was to stare directly forward at all times and forget that he had eyes; Any movement would cause the blood to flow again along with a great deal of pain the more his eyes flicked and twitched.

"Bone, do you hear that?" Scenic was looking ahead of her cart now that the caravan was moving towards the drawbridge. "The Knights are starting to scan ponies and bring them inside Rich's... manor-castle place."

Laying on his side and staring directly forward, Bone's bandaged eyes could of course see nothing. He worried if his cutie-mark had reverted back to its original raven skull or if the coat had worn off.

"Let me know when they're up. I want them to leave as soon as possible so I can see again and-" He winced with pain once again, forgetting that he wasn't supposed to look anywhere with what remained of his eyes, "-and I want to be myself, not this fake pony that doesn't exist."

Frosty's father pitched in to the conversation. "Wouldn't you want to stay hidden? You'd be safer then."

Bone shook his head reflexively only to immediately regret it. "I'd rather see and be hunted than be blind and safe, at least when I only myself to worry about."

Scenic held a hoof to the young necromancer's face, careful to not touch the bandages that wrapped around his head or protected his bloodied eye sockets. "We'll get through this, Bone. The Knights will do their magic, we'll get past them, and when they leave you can get your sight back."

The Knight of the Sun that was conducting the searches waved his hoof forward once again with a loud declaration to move the carts.

"Looks like that's finally us Bone," the pegasus filly muttered in Bone's ear. "Stay cool and-"

"What's this, then?" The Knight harrumphed. " another cart filled with injured?"

"Oh, by Celestia-" Another younger sounding guard pointed out, his hoof reaching over the sides. "Have you seen his eyes?"

The two members of Celestia's knights looked more closely at Bone Marrow, the older one humming with somber anger and the younger wincing at the sight.

"Did the bandits take his eyes, or the necromancer?" The younger knight shook his head, pitying the poor colt. "If only the Traitor Princess hadn't caused an uprising; none of this would've happened!"

"Steel yourself, Knight." The older of the two's command was steadfast, "We've a job to do and only so much time to help those in need. Scan the poor soul and let's get them through the gates."

A clank of metal sounded out as Bone Marrow heard the younger guard salute.

"Yes, sergeant."

It started at his hooves; a strange tingling sensation that made his limbs twitch and tense up. Moving from the very rear of the colt all the way towards the neck, the Knight paused.

"Even the eyes, sergeant?" The stallion asked nervously.

More shifting of armor, possibly a nod. "That's correct." There was a pause before the sergeant spoke again, "We'll keep this quick, not to worry."

Bone gritted his teeth as the scan moved from his neck to his jaw, his teeth rattling and vibrating. It then moved through his cheekbones and through his eyesockets, causing him to shout with the surprising amount of pain. Bone's hooves shot to his eyes as his body curled, the vibration of the spell making the fresh wounds in his eyes shake and bleed once more, irritating the flesh inside and out.

Blood began to seep from the bandages of his eyes and before long, the scan had completed.

The subordinate shook his head. "They're all clean. Necromancer must've ran off when he got word of us."

"Be on your guard then." The older knight replied. He tapped the side of the cart twice before clearing it to move ahead. "The necromancer may still be nearby, so remember: Never speak the name of any knight aloud. The necromancer will use his foul magics to see through your eyes with a mere utterance of namesake. Honorific titles only."

The Knight nodded, his helmet somewhat oversize. "Yes, sergeant!"

Bone's interest was perked at that, and again his movement caused pain. I can see through a pony's eyes if I know their name? It that why Anvil didn't want to tell me, and why that pony in the mine gave a false name? He thought of testing this idea on Obscenely Rich but decided against it almost as quickly. He had no idea what would happen if he used the ability or even more so, how exactly he would go about it.

The cart lurched forward, carrying the last surviving ponies of Galloping Glades into the safety of Rich's mansion/castle. Scenic told Bone that ponies had already started setting up shelters within the walls when she spotted the golden pony moving to address all of them on the stone stairway leading up to the manor's front doors.

"Everypony, please!" Bone heard the voice of Obscenely Rich call out, "There is no need to sit out here among the dirt and debris. Come inside; I have more than enough rooms for you and your families, as well as the injured."

More gruff mutterings sounded from the Knights nearby, or at least Bone assumed they were. "He must have a lot of guards..."

Scenic ran a hoof on Bone's side to calm him. "He has about as many guards as the Knights sent here, Bone. Maybe..." She paused a moment, counting out the ponies she saw in armor with a hoof, "Maybe thirty or so on each side?"

Bone's ears folded back, the action tugging on his eyelids and causing him to wince. "Sixty guards here? Isn't that a lot for just a manor in the middle of nowhere?"

She shrugged, but Bone couldn't tell. "I guess our town was in the middle of nowhere, and we only had one guard. Makes sense to me to have an army just in case."

The cart finally came to a stop within the walls and the large gate clanked to a raised position as ponies pushed a large pulley system at the gatehouse, bringing the security of the castle to everypony's ears with an unexpectedly large metallic crash accented by the protests of aging wood.

"Gate secure!" A pony called out. Scenic let Bone know it looked like Rich's guard captain since he was wearing a tunic of the noble's flag. "Final check; begin!"

More shouts rang out declaring each side of the walls around Rich's manor to be secure and steady. When the reports stopped, the golden pony called out to those he was sheltering once more.

"Everypony, you're free to carry what you have with you into the manor but I have staff that would be just as happy to do it for you. There should be a meal prepared in an hour so you're free to get settled in and take a bath or whatever else you may need before then. Let the staff know if you need anything brought to you or if you'd like a word with me. For now, I will be indisposed with my good Knight friend here discussing what happened."

Scenic pulled on Bone's side, letting him know to stand up. The injured necromancer relied more on his ears now than his eyes, trying to keep staring directly forward at all times to avoid the pain that would come if his remaining eye muscles moved in his head.

"Come on Bone, just have to get you inside and cleaned up..." Scenic paused a moment as she hopped out of the cart and offered a hoof to Bone before realizing he had no way to see it. She tapped on his hoof and Bone grabbed hold, "Sorry about that, not used to the eyes yet."

Bone gave an amused huff. "Neither am I."

I can't wait for these Knights to be gone so I can get this pain over with.

Bone followed Scenic through a courtyard and finally to stone steps, each step being tediously slow. A hoof would raise forward and clumsily be pushed until it struck the next stone surface, repeated again and again in what seemed like an eternity to move Bone from the bottom of the steps towards the top.

Each step Bone took, he could hear the pitied mutterings of Guards and maybe even Knights around him.

"Poor colt, losin' his eyes like that so young."

"Never be the same again, I'd imagine."

"You think they have magic that could fix that kind of injury in Canterlot? How much would it cost?"

"Nah, don't think like that. You'd spend all your pay helping the injured and end up starving yourself. Can't help the poor colt now; just have to do our best to make sure it doesn't happen to anypony else."

"Who would do something like that, to a colt of all ponies?"

The voices became louder as Bone approached the top of the staircase. He could hear the scratching of metal plates sliding against chain-mail and assumed the sound was coming from Knights of the Sun.

"From what the noble said, the necromancer himself came upon their caravan. Intercepted the actual messenger bird that was meant for this castle and took its place. Took the return letter and figured out where the caravan was, found out he couldn't actually hurt the noble on account of being bit-less and blinded the poor colt before running off."

"The necromancer did that?" Bone heard a sharp jostling of plate and assumed that it was a hoof being pointed in his direction, "That's horrible!"

"Aye, it's horrendous. The reason I get out of bed in the morning is to stop atrocities like that from happening to others, 'specially my own foals. I can't imagine coming home to find that some horrible pony plucked their eyes out..."

There was a respectful pause in conversation as Bone Marrow made his way past the Knights, soon resuming after he passed them.

"I don't know what I'd do if I were that colt's parents. Swear revenge? It'd be pointless; Necromancers like that Bone Marrow fella can't be killed by normal means."

"Really? Why's that? We've killed plenty of other necromancers before; what makes him so special?"

The voices were easier to make out now and Scenic let Bone know they had reached the top of the steps. He whispered to pause for a moment, wanting to hear the end of the Knight's conversation.

"Well, the ones we killed were all practitioners. Bookish mages wanting to learn Necromancy. Bone Marrow, on the other hoof... Well, he's a natural."

"What do you mean, he's a natural at learning it?"

A jostling of plate armor, Bone assuming that the Knight was shaking his head. "No, I don't mean a natural learner. I mean he was born with the special talent of Necromancy in all its forms. If legends hold true, only one natural necromancer can be alive at any time. The past three times these monsters have popped up in history they've gone on a murderous rampage through Equestria burning everything in their wake on a direct path to Canterlot. Soon as that colt learns everything he can do, he'll be a nightmare to deal with."

The other Knight seemed shaken, his voice wavering. "What kind of things can they do? All we've ever fought was a few skeletons that fell apart easily enough from a sword strike or a fire bolt. He can't be that much worse, can he?"

The second Knight grumbled in thought for a moment. "Well, I'll give you a primer on what I assume is true from what I've heard. Naturals wrote the books on Necromancy; Everything they discovered how to do in their time when they weren't murdering. Any time a pony has tried to kill a Natural, they ended up getting turned to ash and resurrecting the necromancer with the flesh and bone from their body. They can turn your heart to shredded pulp; blind and deafen you for the rest of your days; raise an army of skeletons the likes of which hasn't been seen for a century; heal wounds with a thought; turn your body to ash and other things that I'm convinced are pure fantasy."

"T-then... how do we even kill them?" The first Knight stuttered. The clanking of plate was heard before metal rested on metal.

"Easy there, lad. It's not that difficult to manage a Necromancer if you know what you're doing... it just takes a lot of willing souls to sacrifice themselves in order to do it."

"W-what do you mean?"

"I mean you have to find ponies willing to stare death in the face and drive a blade through its heart every time the Necromancer comes back from the dead, moving their body closer and closer to the Dragon Lands until we can throw 'em into a volcano."


"The other way is harder, trust me. Hasn't been done before either, but the theory is that if you can get the Necromancer to be willing, they can be trapped in a Soul Jar. The problem with that is that necromancers are the only pony able to make one of 'em, and none have been very willing to trap themselves."

"There has to be an easier way to deal with them; So many ponies are going to get killed dealing with this monster!"

The Knights shared a moment of uncertain silence before they realized that the two foals had been listening in. "Oh, for Celestia's sake..."

Bone heard clanking approaching him from armored hooves impacting the stone steps. "Listen, you two. Everything will be fine. We'll find the necromancer and deal with 'em before he ever finds you and your parents again."

The injured necromancer turned his head to face the guard and did his best to not move his eyes. "Thanks... mister?"

He hesitated a bit, but seeing as the colt didn't have eyes for a necromancer to look through he considered the small courtesy of his name. "Sir Red Tape, young one. Knight of the Sun and second in command to our leader."

Bone smirked, testing his luck. "Does the commander have a cool name too?"

"Maybe one day you'll get to meet him," The knight replied, patting his head and regretting the decision as soon as Bone winced. "Sorry 'bout that; It's a habit of mine. You two should run along. Get yourselves cleaned up and those bandages changed, and get some food in your bellies too. We'll stand watch for any bad Necromancers around."

The colt nodded, "Thanks Mister Red Tape."

"You're more than welcome."

"Hey," The other Knight asked, "What's your name?"

His eyes would've shot wide if he had any left, instead yelping in pain from his shredded eyelids opening fresh wounds.

"Ah, by the seven layers of Tartarus, Don't badger the poor colt!" Red Tape scolded his partner, "He's had a rough enough day as it is."

Scenic tugged on the heavy wooden door leading into the manor with some strain, attempting to calmly bring Bone Marrow away from the inquisitive Knights.

"Let me get that for ya, dear." Red Tape offered, his armored hoof clanking against the door before pulling it open. "Get some rest, you both look like you could use it."

The foals stated their thanks and wished them well, moving into the manor as the doors slowly shut behind them.

"Whew," Bone blurted out, "that was close."

Scenic lifted her friend's chin carefully, "Are you alright?"

Bone nodded, "I'm fine. I could use new bandages though; I can feel blood on my face."

The pegasus grimaced at that, noting the spread of red among the bandages wrapped around Bone's eyes. "Let's find somepony with medical stuff."

The mansion itself was extravagant beyond Scenic's ability to describe. Golden walls with silver trim; banners of Rich's noble house hung from the tall ceiling and decorative statues and art lined the hallways. She didn't know what any of them meant, but she did her best to inform Bone of what they were and what they showed.

Paintings of the ideal homestead, of happy ponies living together peacefully. Some of royalty, some of the Princesses; A bust for each of the two sisters as well, facing directly opposite each other in the hallway. The room with Celestia's likeness housed the dining hall where most of the survivors had moved to, each thankfully accepting the food placed in front of them after surviving on empty stomachs and grass for the past few days. The room opposite with Luna's statue housed an expansive library filled wall to wall with more books than any one pony could read in a lifetime.

The halls expanded downwards with more doors and lead to another staircase to what Scenic could only guess was even more rooms, but her concern for now was with her friend. "Are you hungry? It looks like they made some kind of soup for everypony."

Bone shook his head slowly. "Haven't felt hungry in a long while. Thanks, though."

Scenic checked around her to make sure nopony was within earshot before whispering, "Is it because of your necromancy stuff?"

The colt hissed for her to be quiet, "Please don't talk about that stuff while the Knights are still here! One of them could hear us and then everypony would be in trouble."

"There's no guards or knights around." Scenic whispered in reply, "but we can wait 'till later to talk about it."

"Ah!" The cultured voice of a pony rang out melodically, "I see the injured colt has arrived."

Bone turned to face the source of the voice and approaching hoofsteps, soon becoming irritated with his inability to put a face to the voice.

"Worry not, young one. We will take care of your bandages for you."

"Who are you?" Scenic asked with only a hint of suspicion.

"Why, I am Sir Rich's butler. You may call me by another name if you choose, but my given name is Buttoned Up. You may call upon me for council or service and I am contractually bound to reveal nothing you say to another living soul, so long as I remain in the service of Sir Rich."

Bone considered the offer for a moment but then decided against it. Never Trust Strangers. "Thanks, Buttoned Up." the injured necromancer politely replied, "I think I just need new bandages for now. I'm not all that hungry."

"As you wish. What would I call you, Master Unicorn?"

The name again, Bone mentally grumbled, I don't even know what my cutie mark looks like now.

"His name is Weathered Storm." Scenic replied for her friend.

"Ah," the butler hummed approvingly, "A fitting name for a pony that's gone through so much. I will return shortly with new bandages for you, Master Storm and Miss Sight."

Scenic was amused that the butler had bowed before leaving, giggling to Bone about the occurrence, "I think he's pretty neat; I've never seen a butler before."

Bone was less convinced. "I don't trust him."

"Well that's what you have your friends for, Bone." Scenic reminded him with a light hug. "We'll be here for you when nopony else is."

He smiled at that, only slightly wincing as his cheeks raised and brushed against his bandages. "Thanks, Scenic."

Generous Hospitality

View Online

"Your room will be right here," Buttoned Up pointed out, opening a mahogany door leading into the largest room Scenic had ever seen.

The filly gasped, her jaw dropping. "By Celestia! Do you see the size of that-" She froze mid speech, realizing what she had said. "Um... I mean..."

Bone stood in the hallway looking in the general direction that Scenic's voice had come from. "It's alright, Scenic. What's the room like?"

She hesitated for a moment as the butler excused himself. Pulling her necromancer friend into the room she described everything to the best of her ability. "There's curtains of deep red and silver next to the windows with cool little hook things made of brass to keep the fabric from blocking the sun and there's this gigantic bed that I'm pretty sure is larger than my old bedroom on its own with these posts going up to the ceiling. There's also a bunch of neat looking dressers with silver buttons on them for grabbing; Oh, it's so fancy!"

Bone Marrow's thoughts were distracted by a bit of information he had learned recently as Scenic spoke, Red Tape mentioned that I had the ability to look through another pony's eyes... right?

"Hey Scenic, remember when Red Tape was talking about the eye thing?" Bone asked while looking behind himself to check on the door only, to remember that he didn't have eyes with which to see the door. He sighed, "Scenic, is the door shut?"

The sound of hooves trotting on hardwood and a click later Scenic declared the room to be secure.

"What do you mean?" She asked while moving closer to Bone. "You want to try it?"

Bone was hesitant now as other ideas came to mind. "Do you think it'd hurt?"

"Well," Scenic shrugged, "only one way to find out, right?"

Bone shook his head, "I don't even know how to do it, though. Do I just think your name or do I have to make some fancy rhyme?"

"How have you done your magic stuff so far?" Scenic inquired.

It was now Bone's turn to shrug. "I just kinda... thought it really hard?"

"Well, mister unicorn magic, why not try doing that?"

The young necromancer paused for a moment, "I don't have eyes to see through; won't it not work?"

Scenic placed a hoof on Bone's muzzle and startled him, "Try your fancy magic or I'll smack your snoot."

Bone laughed at that, "That's a fate worse than three deaths! Of course; right away your highness!"

The filly removed her hoof and waited patiently, staring at Bone Marrow as well as the door to ensure nopony was going to walk in on them.

The necromancer took a deep breath to focus his mind and thought with all of his might: Scenic Sight

His eyes opened, though he was now looking at himself. Fresh white bandages wrapped around his head with two blots of blood where his eyes would be. A red mane that could only be described as spicy and a duller coat of brown following from it. He couldn't move 'his' head, but he knew he was looking through Scenic's eyes. He saw Scenic's eyes look from side to side and pieced together that his cutie mark was of a storm cloud with lightning arcing in the center of it.

"Whoa," Scenic replied, her vision growing wider as she looked at her own hoof. "It got really cold all of a sudden. Is it working?"

Bone watched himself slowly nod. "It's strange," He saw himself state, "I can see myself through your eyes, but I'm still hearing from my own body."

"Wait, what? How does that even work?" Scenic asked, moving closer to Bone Marrow.

"It's like..." Bone attempted to explain, witnessing his own hoof move to his chin, "So, you know what an echo sounds like, right?"

He saw Scenic's eyes close when she nodded in understanding, "Yeah, it's all ghostly and strange."

"Is there a mirror in here?" Bone asked changing subjects suddenly, "I want to check something, just to be sure."

"So long as it's quick, Bone. I'm getting really cold from this."

He could see cold breath coming from Scenic's mouth as she helped him move towards a very large and tall mirror. He saw himself smile as well. "I can imagine that mirror is big enough for a princess."

'His' vision flicked over to the mirror and he saw Scenic smile. He also saw something that caught his attention with a great deal of worry.

"Uh, Scenic? Look closer into the mirror, would you?" Bone asked, concern laced in his voice.

Her head turned and she walked over to stand in the mirror. "Whoa!" Her hooves moved to her own eyelids, pulling them down to get a better look at her eye. "There's skulls in them! Big blue skulls, just like yours!"

Bone was very alarmed now, his eyes hurting from looking around in his own body in a reflexive gesture of confusion. "How do I stop looking through your eyes?"

He saw Scenic turn to him. "I dunno, try thinking your own name? If it's all about the name, then it should work for you too, right?"

The bandaged colt nodded, "Guess it might work."

Bone Marrow

His vision faded away from Scenic's into a world of black once again. No light, no color, only blindness.

"I don't think I've ever been happy to be blind before," Bone breathed with a sigh of relief. "Can you check your eyes?"

There was a pause for a moment before Scenic replied, "Yep, skulls are gone. Still kind of cold though." Bone heard his friend walk closer to sit down next to him in front of the mirror. "Are you always that cold?"

The colt paused for a moment. "I don't know, actually. I guess because I'm a necromancer I don't really notice it?"

He felt a warm body press against his side and a muzzle rest on his head. "I dunno, you seem warm and cozy to me."

Bone smiled and felt a hoof tap him on his snoot.

The two young ponies had shared the rest of the day together exploring the mansion of Obscenely Rich. A few survivors noticed that Bone was walking around with Scenic leading the way and gave their whispered thanks for what he had gone through in order to get everypony to safety. A few even brought gifts of vegetable soup and bread, which Scenic accepted for her sightless friend.

The Knights had been busy, however. They moved from pony to pony with a checklist asking questions of all kinds in a kind of interrogation throughout the day and the two had done their best to avoid a confrontation with them. Scenic's mother was spotted conversing with Bright Idea in the dining room and the two stopped by to pay them a visit. Bright Idea gave his thanks to Bone Marrow and Scenic's mother offered an oatmeal cookie she had saved just for the occasion.

Bone was thankful for the praise, but he found something inside of himself still remaining empty from it all. Somehow, their thanks felt hollow. He was worried that the burning of Galloping Glades had changed him for the worse, but Scenic attributed his worries to not having his eyes and being in the constant pain that he suffered through because of it.

Their talk calmed the young necromancer down, and they remained safely out of sight of the Knights for the rest of the evening as well, soon retiring to their shared room on the insistence of Obscenely Rich's pleading. The noble had spent most of his time conversing with a Knight Captain that refused to name himself and Bone Marrow was happy enough to not bother him for a name in the first place.

The two foals sat on their massive bed together, Scenic jumping on the mattress and enjoying herself when the door was knocked on by a very heavy hoof.

"Open this door," the muffled voice behind the door demanded. "The Knights of the Sun require your compliance."

Bone froze and Scenic looked at the door as if it were a looming monster. "Bone, what do we do?" She whispered in his ear.

This is it. Either my disguise holds against this or I'm going to have to fight my way out of this mansion...

The door was knocked on again, louder and more forcefully than before. "Open this door!"

The disguised necromancer sighed. "Let them in. We'll see how badly this goes."

Scenic leaped from the bed causing Bone to shift slightly as the mattress adjusted to the loss of weight on its springs. A few hoof steps clacked against the wood floor later and the door opened slowly.

"Hello?" Scenic asked.

The door was shoved open with armored hooves following loudly afterward. Bone stared directly forward, uncertain of where the ponies were exactly and not wanting to accidentally injure himself again by looking around.

"The room is secure." A knight announced officially. The door soon closed and Bone could hear plate armor clanking against itself nearby. He guessed the door was barred by a Knight standing in front of it.

"You two are very difficult to track down," The Knight began, "You are the only two ponies we've yet to interrogate about the necromancer."

There was a pause of silence before Scenic replied, "How can we help?"

A wet cough of throat clearing sounded near the bed as the mattress dipped again from weight. Bone hoped it was Scenic that was sitting next to him.

"By decree of Princess Celestia since the first encounter of Necromancy in Equestria, we, the Knights of the Sun, have been charged with the safekeeping and protection of the land." The Knight seemed to be bored with his own presentation as if reading from a scroll that had been recited countless times. "In these troubled times of violence and suffering, the presence of a Necromancer only makes things far worse for everypony else. It is your royal duty to report any sightings of ponies with the following traits: skulls in the center of their eyes; glowing eyes; an affinity for graveyards, the dead, skeletons and funerals; a deep need for an empty void to be filled within them; a hunger for odd foods such as meat, bones, animals and the flesh of other ponies; sudden cases of blindness, deafness, organ failure, piles of ash, melting flesh and," The Knight took a deep breath before continuing, "The sudden snapping of bone; hood wearing ponies; ponies who don't talk to anypony else for weeks at a time; ponies who don't eat regularly; ponies who don't sleep; ponies who never seem to get tired or fatigued from long marches and finally, ponies who raise armies of the dead in their spare time."

There was a pause of tension in the room before the Knight continued. "With this in mind and the very considerable threat a Necromancer poses to the safety of yourself and others, do you or anypony you know show signs of these symptoms, abilities or habits?"

Bone paused, realizing that the list had practically nailed everything he had done so far down to a science and bit his lip.

"Nope!" Scenic replied, happy to fill the growing silent tension. "Not since he took Storm's eyes out at least. He kinda sounds like that though. Was wearing a hood and everything!"

"And you; Storm, was it?" The knight inquired suspiciously, "Have you something to say?"

The injured and disguised necromancer was careful to slowly shake his head. "Uh, no. Unless you think he might be standing somewhere in the room, I haven't been able to see much of anything since he took my eyes..."

He could hear a low hissing of breath from the Knight at the door. "Oof, He's got you there, sergeant."

There was another tense pause and the mattress shifted once more. "Has anypony actually lifted these bandages to check if this colt's eyes are missing, or has it simply been assumed they are?"

There was a shifting of plate armor in the room followed by silence.

"I thought not." The knight replied. Bone felt a very cold and metallic hoof on the side of his face next to the bandages wrapped around his head. "Let's take these off and have a look."

Scenic was quick to voice protest, "Don't, his eyes will start bleeding again!"

The Knight cared little for the filly's concern, tearing off Bone's bandages roughly with a sharp part of his hoof's armoring. Bone winced with pain as the pressure was lifted from his eyes and the open air was exposed to his shredded eyelids. He tried to hold them with his hooves, but they were held down by another Knight's magic.

"Odd." The knight announced. "I've never known a necromancer to use a knife when they wanted a body part removed."

Cold fear lanced through Bone Marrow. He practically froze up, thinking quickly about what he would say that would prevent him from being found out.

"A-ah..." He stammered, "I-it wasn't the necromancer!"

There was a pause. "Explain." The Knight demanded with detached authority.

"M-my parents did it! I caught them doing things they weren't supposed to be doing, j-just like you said!" Bone felt sick from what he was saying, but in his own mind's defense of itself he was disguised as a pony that didn't really exist in the first place. Who was to say what a non-existant pony's parents did to their false child?

Never the less, Bone felt the need to mentally apologize to his actual parents, where ever they may have gone after being turned to ash.

Bone's hooves were freed from their magical grip and they went immediately to his eyes, applying pressure and attempting to shield them from any further pain and injury from the Knights that his welling tears weren't already causing.

"Sergeant..." A Knight calmly pleaded, "I don't think the poor colt's a Necromancer. Do you?"

Scenic was quick to apply more bandages that were stored in a dresser drawer nearby, as Bone sometimes needed the bandages changed anyways when he accidentally moved his eyes and the bleeding started again during their walk through the Manor.

"Scan them both, just to be sure." The Sergeant ordered. "Focus on their eyes."

"But Sergeant, he doesn't have eyes!"

"Would you rather follow orders and capture the Necromancer, or possibly spare him and have countless thousands die because you were too afraid of injuring somepony suspected of necromancy!?" The sergeant loudly shouted, the sounds of armored hooves stepping backwards soon following the outburst. "He may be a foal, but the very necromancer we're hunting is a foal! There's a time and place for emotions to get in the way of thinking, but not when you're defending the lives of everypony in Equestria. Not when the safety of the nation is at risk!"

"Y-yes, Sergeant." The Knights replied one after the other. Bone tried to move himself away from the knights but their scanning had already begun.

His hooves shook, his bones rattled and vibrated inside of his own body and he could feel his organs protesting against this new scan. Bone could only hope that the disguise was holding up to what was happening or his lies and pain would be for nothing. Past his ribs the magic moved, up to his neck as he felt his throat tighten from the strain. His jaw moved and his teeth rattled, fearing the coming agony for when it came just a little bit further.

Then, it struck. The bottom of his eyelids came first and he gritted his teeth with pained hissing, curling into a ball as if it would provide some protection instead of just causing his body to vibrate and shake itself further. Then the eyes in full had been in the Knight's magical scrutiny, what remained shaking around as if he had decided to look in every direction at once a hundred times a second, the pain forcing a scream of horror from his lips and many pleas for the Knights to stop hurting him.

After what felt like an eternity, the scan passed his upper eyelids. Their butchered remains peeling apart from the force of the magic and causing blood to dribble onto the mattress, Bone's hooves now coated from attempting to spare his eyes from the scan. He could barely do more than shake as his body went limp, breathing hard has the pain died down and the magic moved towards his horn. Unsteady breaths interrupted by grunts of pain and his body's reactionary jolts away from Scenic's attempted comforts were all he could manage by the end of it.

"Well, Sergeant." The subordinate Knight seethed, "Are you happy now? Can you rest well at night with the knowledge that Equestria has been saved once again because you wanted this poor colt tortured? I know I'll never sleep again after this, and I'll be reporting this to Captain Pure Intent as soon as we leave."

The room was filled only with Bone Marrow's pained sobbing as the clanking of armor of Knights quickly stormed off and slammed the door behind them.

"I..." The sergeant began.

"Just leave!" Scenic shouted while trying to calm Bone Marrow down, "Leave us alone!"

The sergeant attempted one last time to apologize but his hoof was knocked aside by Scenic. He then chose to quietly exit the room and leave the two foals in peace, the door closing behind him as he was the last to leave.

Bone's shaking breath was interrupted by his attempts at speech. "Sce-Scenic..."

Scenic shushed her friend, her hooves already moving to apply another fresh bandage to Bone's eyes after carefully removing the soaked ones from the Knight's interrogation. "It's okay, Bone; they're gone now."

The bloodied colt slowly gave a pained smile. "I got a name..."

Lying Never Works Forever

View Online

Scenic and Bone Marrow were left alone after their interrogation for the entire night. The young necromancer was still shaking with pain hours after the Knights had left and only fell asleep from fatigue.

In the morning, Scenic had pulled the bed's blanket over her friend and noticed that his eyes had stopped their slow bleeding. They crusted onto the colt's eyes and the filly debated whether or not she should wake him in order to apply fresh bandages. She also wondered about the possibility of finding meat for Bone, hoping it would lessen his pain if he was able to heal his eyes even a small amount.

Opening the door to their room as quietly as she was able and moving silently as hooves would allow, she wished her friend good luck with his recovery and shut the door behind her. Scenic found Bone's need for meat to be more of a strange quirk than anything abhorrent or gross, though the idea of actually holding flesh in her mouth made her queasy.

With a light stomp of her hoof to stomp out her metaphorical inhibitions onto the hardwood floor the young pegasus set off to the kitchens where the she and Bone had been run off the day previous by the cooks for attempting to steal cookies. Bone was a particular fan of oatmeal raisin cookies, which Scenic found to be odd when there were much tastier ones to be eaten.

To avoid making noise the filly used her wings to glide down the staircases and come to a soft landing on the rug on the bottom floor. The main hallway was under watch by two of Rich's guards, each glancing at the other and giving a noncommittal shrug at the presence of the filly.

Scenic nodded at the guards with an innocent smile and they responded in kind. She noticed that the door to the kitchen's pantry had been left open and that a small rat had been nibbling away at the manor's supply of hay. With a smile that threatened impending murder, the filly flew to a table top and looked for the best rat-killing device she could hold in her mouth. Her eyes finally rested on a menacing looking meat cleaver and she giggled. Her friend would finally have some of the meat that he needed, since he technically hadn't eaten in the days it took for their group to get from what remained of Galloping Glades to Rich's Manor.

Grabbing the cleaver in her mouth and swiftly turning her head towards the oblivious rat, she steadied her aim as much as possible to ensure there would be little chance of missing. Aligning the blade to the rat's spine would be good enough, she imagined.

"What are you doing in here again?"

Both the rat and Scenic jumped at the noise, the rat scurrying off into the pantry to hide among the food storage and the filly being greatly disappointed at the interruption. Looking to the source of volume with a meat cleaver still in her irritated mouth she was greeted by the sight of a tired chef pony.

"You know you're not supposed to be in the kitchen," The chef pony grumbled while setting down a bag, "And what are you doing with that meat cleaver, anyway?"

The cleaver wielding filly rested her makeshift weapon onto a counter-top in order to speak. "I was going to kill a rat before you interrupted me."

The pony was surprised by this. "A rat you say? In my kitchen?"

The chef took the meat cleaver from the table and wielded it with a precise magical grip. "Where did you last see it, young filly?"

Scenic pointed towards the pantry with a lazy hoof. "It ran off into the back, I think." After further thought she inquired with suspicion, "Why do you have a meat cleaver, anyway?"

Opening the door further with their magic and peering into the dark space of the pantry the chef replied, "We recieve guests from other kingdoms occasionally. Griffons are the most common; rude birds."

The filly's face scrunched with surprise. Griffons? Did that mean they kept meat stored here?

"Aha! There you are, you pest!" The chef called out triumphantly, their magical grip reaching out to pluck a guilty looking rat holding a tomato from the pantry. "Any last words?"

The rat squeaked quite pathetically, holding the tomato in front of its face like a shield to cower behind it.

The chef sighed, placing their cleaver on the nearby counter-top. "It's a shame they can be so cute sometimes, you know? It makes killing them so difficult."

With the chef escorting the rat out of the room in their magic, Scenic was once again left alone in the kitchen.

"If I were a chef," Scenic wondered while looking around the room and scratching her chin, "where would I put meat?"

Sometime later after intense searching that proved fruitless, the Chef eventually notified the curious filly about the location of the meat storage with moderate curiosity. Scenic explained that she had never seen meat before and wanted to take a look, so the chef suspiciously obliged.

"Look, I have to run and make sure the other chefs are going to wake up on time, alright?" The chef warned Scenic, "you're free to look, just don't take any of the meat; It's difficult enough to get our hooves on it."

Scenic nodded with the smile of an innocent filly and the chef soon left the kitchen. Not five seconds had passed before she pried her way into the larder and grabbed hold of a large slab of meat the size of her own chest. Her tongue sat in her mouth as far as possible away from the meat, the taste being fairly horrible to her, but it was all for a good cause. Bone Marrow needed to eat too, after all.

Poking her head out of the kitchen into the guarded hallway, she noticed the chef had just left through the front door. With the guards distracted she used her wings to fly up the staircases once more as quietly as she could manage holding the chunk of flesh in her mouth.

It was only then, to her own horror, that a Knight happened to round the corner and spot the filly holding meat in the middle of the hallway. The two stared at each other with worry; The knight for the possibility of a necromancer being present despite their search and the filly for fear that she was about to accidentally give up her friend.

Setting the meat down on the rug and licking her teeth in a futile attempt to wash the taste away, Scenic attempted to explain. "Uh, hello! I was just... taking this meat to the, um, the larder! Yeah. Found it laying around, heh, see ya!"

"Wait just a minute," The Knight called out causing Scenic to freeze mid-bite. "What are you doing all the way up here with a slab of flesh?"

Her mouth still open with the indecision of answering or fleeing, her eyes darted left and right in panic. "Uh..."

"Bring that here! You've got some questions to answer, young filly."

Around mid-day, Bone Marrow awoke to an empty room. His hoof reached over to where Scenic had been sleeping and noticed a worrying absence of his friend.

"Scenic?" Bone called out, "are you there?"

There was no answer. He looked around the room, careful to not move his eyes before realizing that it would be pointless anyway. He could move his ears to listen around the room for breathing, however. Still, he found nothing but empty air.

The colt grumbled to himself, pulling the sheets from his body and doing his best to find the floor with blind hooves swinging over the edge of the bed until they found purchase with the wooden floor. Smiling at his success, he cautiously slid from the mattress onto the hardwood; keeping one hoof on the mattress so he wouldn't stumble around even more blind than he already was. Moving from bedpost to bedpost he now assumed he was in the middle of the room. The door to the hallway was supposed to be opposite the post he now clung to, so he walked away from it with a single hoof outstretched so that the limb might run into something before his muzzle did.

Thankfully, the door opened to the friendly sound of Scenic's voice. "Hey, Storm..."

Bone's left eye twitched with reactive suspicion, causing a lance of pain to run through his face and for him to hold a hoof to his eye, hissing with pain. "Hey, Scenic."

"We... um," his friend began, "We might have some explaining to do."

Bone froze completely, not daring to move a muscle. "What do you mean?"

"Hello, Storm." A very familiar voice stated in gentle tone. "I don't believe we've met, yet."

Oh, I think we have, Bone thought back in reply, That's Deus Vult; or at least the pony that calls himself that.

"Would you mind if I came in? I have some questions that need answering."

He was less friendly now, and the question was in no way a polite request.

"Um... sure!" Bone replied with a small nervous smile, careful to ensure his eyes wouldn't be pained by too wide a grin. "Where are you?"

Scenic's hooves guided her friend to the mattress once more, urging Bone to climb on for a seat. Bone could hear the four legs of a wooden chair impacting the rug nearby and the scraping of plate armor as a pony sat down.

"A few of my guards have raised interesting contradictions with Sir Rich's account of the raid on Galloping Glades; you being the center of most of them. Tell me: why do you need meat?"

Bone looked in what he assumed to be Scenic's direction, his face frozen in a blank mask that hid his mounting anxiety.

"Also, what is the real story behind your eyes? Sir Rich states that the necromancer took them, the survivors state that the bandits are the culprits, and yet you yourself state it was your own parents. That's quite a miss match of information, and I aim to see it corrected with the truth."

Bone heard the noise of plate armor growing closer and assumed the nameless pony was leaning in. "I hope you wouldn't lie to a Captain of the Sun, would you?"

Deus Vult's real name was Pure Intent?

"So," Pure stated officially, "What is the reason for your filly friend to steal meat from the Manor's larder, and how were your eyes removed? Do not lie to me, Storm. I will know the truth sooner or later. Lying never works in the long run."

The young injured necromancer had only so long before his reply would become suspiciously late, so he decided to tell a judiciously modified version of the truth instead. He couldn't use the excuses that the other ponies had come up with in his defense and he couldn't tell the same lie he had already used. He would have to come up with something as close to the truth as possible...

"W-well... um..." Bone stammered, stalling for time, "Can a necromancer hear what you're saying if they know your name?"

"Not as far as I am aware, Storm..." Pure Intent answered with great suspicion laced through his tone.

"Uh..." Bone looked to Scenic apologetically, "Well, I... I was the necromancer's friend when he came to town..."

"His friend?" The captain was surprised by this answer. "How in Equestria did you manage that?"

Bone wasn't sure if he should smile in delight that the ruse had worked, or to frown that he was basing this ruse off of his friend. He went for a blank expression instead, doing his best to play the part of a pony in shock.

"Well, my mother found him out in the Everfree with a crossbow bolt in his heart. She came back to the house to tell me, and when we both went back out to find him the bolt was gone. The forest was all nasty and covered with ash all around him and we didn't know he was a bad pony then."

The necromancer tried to keep his voice as innocent as he could through his altered retelling of events. "We brought him home, washed him up and gave him something to eat. I showed him around town and he seemed like he was having fun and everything. I only started to worry when he asked if there was any meat in town. Ponies don't normally eat meat, right?"

More shifting of plate in what Bone assumed was a nod. "That's right. Go on."

"Well," Bone replied while taking a breath, "Eventually he wandered off into the forest in search of something to eat. While he was gone, bandits attacked the town and started killing everypony..."

He took a pause to breathe for a few moments, partially from the pain in his eyes and from the memories of him running through the burning town in search of Scenic.

"My parents were being killed in front of me by the bandits when the necromancer came back, and he just... their bodies melted into ash, piece by piece. I haven't seen anything like that from any other unicorn I knew, and I only made the connection then because his eyes started to glow really bright with those big blue skulls in them."

Pure Intent hummed with sympathy. "And your eyes? What happened to them?"

"Well, the necromancer left the town along with everypony else that survived. He raised a few of the dead bandits and used them to finish off the other surviving ones and escorted us away from the town. When Rich needed a way to get a letter to his mansion, the necromancer sent a bird he had eaten to do the job. I guess he wasn't expecting anypony like you to be here at the manor, because when Rich read the letter to him he ran off into the forest with his army."

Intent took a deep breath, his armor shifting once again. "Then why are your eyes cut out, Storm? Who did this to you?"

Bone bit his lips shut, looking to Scenic once again. Was he really going to have to throw one of his friends off a metaphorical cliff to save his own hide?

"You're safe now, Storm," Pure Intent replied gently, placing a cold armored hoof on Bone's leg. "No pony will hurt you while we're around, you understand?"

Bone choked on his words for a moment before blurting out, "I did; I was the pony that cut my eyes out!"

Intent's hoof immediately retracted with shock. "You what?!"

"He could look through my eyes, right?" Bone replied in a panic, hoping that his own desperation to throw the captain off track as well as his own narrow avoidance of placing one of his friends in danger would pay off, "I didn't want the necromancer to find out where we were, so I cut my own eyes out! He knew my name and everypony was treating me like I could turn into a spy at any moment, so I did what I thought was right so everypony else would be safe."

A breath of sympathy escaped Pure Intent's pursed lips as he leaned back into his chair. "Horrible. Just horrible..."

There was a tense pause in the room with only breathing being heard.

"So," Pure stated with cold detachment, "why was this filly carrying meat to your room, then?"

"U-uh, I wanted to see if it would help his eyes!" Scenic replied in a blurt of panic. "I remembered reading someplace that meat was good for sore muscles if you put it on wounds, so I figured I could try it with Storm!"

The captain's voice was pure skepticism. "Then why are you so guilty? You behave like you've been caught in a trap, young filly."

Bone couldn't think of a good reply to that. What could he say that would get Scenic out of trouble? He couldn't say he was hungry; normal ponies don't eat meat. Play it off as an innocent mistake? That wouldn't work either, not with the Knights on the hunt for a meat eating necromancer.

His lips trembled as he looked to his only friend. "S-Scenic?"

The mattress moved along with the scraping of armor, and he assumed that both ponies were looking at him now.

"I'm sorry," Bone numbly apologized, "I have to tell him the-"

"Don't you say anything, Storm!" Scenic replied in panic, clamping down Bone's mouth and knocking him onto his back. "Not one word!"

Bone yelped with muffled pain as his eyes once again hurt from the pressure on his muzzle and the sudden jolting of his eyes from being knocked over.

"One of you explain this instant what is going on!" Pure Intent demanded loudly, "What were you going to tell me?"

The two foals faced Pure Intent, frozen with fear and having no good excuses left. Tension was thick in the air, soon cut by the slow drawing of a sword.

"You will tell me where the necromancer is hiding this instant, do you understand me?"

The blade was leveled at Scenic's muzzle, the tip of the captain's sharpened sword cutting soft skin. The standoff was interrupted by a swift knock at the door, distracting Pure Intent.

"Not now!" The captain shouted, his blade moving away from Scenic's head to face the door.

"Captain, I'd like to have a few words with you," the silky voice of Obscenely Rich demanded, "Open up this instant!"

Pure Intent growled, sheathing his sword with a metallic click before pulling the door open. "What do you want, Rich?"

The golden pony marched through the doorway, shouldering the captain aside. "I, " he paused for dramatic effect, "have just been informed of something most unsettling."

"And what would that be?" Pure Intent challenged.

Obscenely Rich was delightfully pompous in his retort. "You, dear captain, do not have a warrant for this manor. You have taken up residence in my home without my express permission, as well as that of the Court of Canterlot. In effect, you are trespassing on my property."

The captain and noble stared at each other, Pure Intent's gaze withering and hateful. His mouth twitched from restrained anger at Rich's calm and superior demeanor.

"You would impede my investigation of Necromancy?" The captain challenged once again, his head lowering like an angry sentient battering ram. "You would stand in the way of law and order?"

"It is you, dear Captain, that breaks the law. I merely house the poor and unfortunate souls of Galloping Glades within my secure walls. You and your Knights have done nothing but harass, interrogate and torture poor victims of brutality that could've been easily prevented under your watch! I should report your entire group for gross negligence. It's almost criminal, I would say, counting all those ponies that didn't survive the attack."

Rich's grin was as wide as it was golden, his eyes sparkling with the certainty of his argument. "Would you like to leave my Manor of your own will, or would you like to be escorted?"

Pure Intent could only muffle a scream of his own frustration as he shouldered past the noble, storming away from the room. A few moments later the three remaining ponies could hear the angry shouting of a very livid Captain of the Sun.

Bone and Scenic practically melted into one another with relief. "Oh, thank Celestia..."

Rich gave a short laugh and corrected the foals, "Ah ah, you shouldn't be thanking her, you should be thanking me. I was the pony that just saved our hides, didn't I?"

"Rich," the young necromancer stated with a relieved grin, "I think I love you."

The three paused for a moment before sharing a stress releasing laugh as the Knights left the noble's Manor, the metallic grinding of the drawbridge lowering and soon followed by clatter of plate fading into the distance.

The Enemy of my Enemy is Also My Enemy

View Online

With the Knights of the Sun marching off towards Canterlot, everypony breathed a sigh of relief. The danger had passed for now, and things could assume some semblance of normality. Bone Marrow was the most excited by the Knight's departure with Scenic leading him by the hoof to the manor's larder, where meat was stored.

"Now, I imagine you'll need a bit of meat to restore your eyes," Rich idly mentioned, "Try not to eat the entire larder, would you? I have a griffon prince due to visit in the next few days and they love to arrive exactly when I'm not expecting them as some kind of a practical joke."

Bone nodded carefully, "I'll see what I can do, but I've never actually used my special talent to heal before."

Rich hummed with understanding. "First time for everything, I suppose."

With the noble's permission the two foals had access to the larder, though Bone Marrow suggested that everypony else stay outside just so he wouldn't consume them on accident.

The air was cold enough for the young necromancer's breath to be visible; enchanted designs lining the inner walls of the larder and emitting some kind of frost to all the items present in the room. Packed tightly together in the layer of cold, Bone reached out with his magic to get a sense of what he was able to work with.

Will consuming cold meat give me a brain freeze? The colt wondered with a momentary scrunching face of confusion. Eh, might as well try it anyway. A little bit, just in case I don't need more.

Sensing where the frozen flesh sat in the room with his magic, the blind necromancer smiled and willed the meat to be devoured. Flakes of frost struck his face as the meat turned to ash, now making Bone concerned for the clean-up afterwards.

Almost immediately he felt better, more refreshed. A slow tiredness had crept upon him that had gone unnoticed until now from the lack of meat.

"Well," The colt announced with uncertainty to the cold room, "Here goes nothing."

He focused on his own eyes thinking with all of his might...


Nothing happened at first, but soon he felt a cold soothing reach the back of his eyes where bloody cords of muscle still remained. It flowed outward towards his eyelids, growing in intensity as he felt the back of his eyes coming together. A slow and steady progression of vision, of his now greatly appreciated fleshy orbs known as eyeballs that allowed him to see and experience the world.

A smile grew across his face as more and more of his eyes returned, finally completing with his eyelids being a bit chilly. Reaching up with a hoof to tear his bandages off, he was relieved that there had been no pain. Opening his eyes, they stung intensely, as if looking for the first time. Technically, Bone realized, that was true. He just used his magic to create eyes!

Blinking rapidly, testing the fact that he could in fact see once more, he looked down to his hooves. He saw that his will to heal had not only fixed his eyes, but now his disguise was rapidly disintegrating. A muddy brown gave way to a pure white and fluffy coat, his eyes glowed to illuminate the darkness once more, and his cutie mark returned to its former glory of being a raven's skull. His mane was even back to its previous dark blue, which he spent a few moments batting a hoof at.

He then swiftly turned around in the locker, pressing against the door as it had no inside mechanism for opening and proudly looked around the room, first spotting Scenic and embracing her in a hug.

"I can see!"

Scenic returned a hug of her own, glad that her friend's torment was finally over as far as eyes went. "What happened to your disguise, Bone?"

The necromancer waved a hoof of scorn at the larder behind him. "My magic may have erased it accidentally. It's fine though, the Knights are gone!"

"Only for the moment, Bone Marrow," Rich replied with an emphasis on the necromancer's name. "I never thought I'd be happy to say the name of a necromancer, but it's a bit different when you know the kind of pony they are, isn't it?"

Bone was confused, "What do you mean by that?"

"Well," Rich explained while taking in a breath, "Pure Intent will be quick with his marching. I assume he'll send a letter in advance and have the warrant ready by the time he gets to Canterlot. After that, It will only be a short time before he returns, as Canterlot is a day's march away from my Manor."

Looking into his pocket, the noble produced a small golden pocket watch. "As for the pony you are, I thought to bring you a gift."

Bone's mind flashed to when he had lost his father's pocket watch, but quickly noticed the engraving on the case was different, almost runic.

"This, dear necromancer friend of mine, is no ordinary pocket watch," Rich explained. Opening the lid with a dexterous hoof, the clock was shown on the right side, yet the lid had opened to something akin to a mirror. "Whosoever holds this watch will be able to see the faces of those they remember." He demonstrated this by showing the face of a pony Bone had never seen before. "My departed wife of many years..."

With a swift click to shut the device, the noble presented the gift to Bone Marrow. "For you to keep. You spared my life when you caught me in the forest heckling bandits when you could've easily killed every last one of us with a thought and saved yourself the trouble. You saved the ponies you could from the town of Galloping Glades and they have you to thank for the rest of their lives. What's even more impressive to me, however, is your own willingness to have your eyes cut out for the safety of everypony in my estate. For that, I can offer you a priceless gift of which you'll find none else in existence."

Bone Marrow accepted the gift, lifting it over his neck. He inspected the pocket watch, opening the lid. "How does it work?"

"Simply think of a pony you know or care about and their face will appear," Rich instructed.

After a moment's pause, the mirror inside was filled with Scenic's smiling face, soon replaced by each of Bone's parents.

Looking up from the watch, Bone smiled. "Thanks, Obby."

The nobles lips pursed for a moment at that, but soon gave into a smile of his own. "Just this once you may call me that, I suppose."

"Won't it get damaged?" Scenic voiced with concern, "I mean... Bone doesn't have the most peaceful of a life."

Rich nodded. "It has more enchantments on it than Celestia's own armor, I imagine. Nothing will destroy that pocket watch, I guarantee it."

Bone was still slightly worried after Scenic's comment. "Not even... lava?"

The golden pony rested a hoof on Bone's side. "Nothing, will destroy it."

Bone nodded with a renewed smile. "Thank you!"

As the day progressed, Bone Marrow paid a visit to everypony in the manor while Obscenely Rich informed his own manor's guards about the Necromancer in the walls. They were understandably frightened, but Rich soon explained that Bone Marrow was a dear friend of his, and that he would be giving out a bonus to hazard pay so long as the necromancer stayed within the walls. That offer cowed most of them, with only a few giving voiced concerns about the safety of everypony in the manor.

Rich explained that without the necromancer's help, he would be dead along with everypony that had survived Galloping Glades. He also added that without the necromancer, they would all be unemployed at the moment. That was enough to silence any further doubts among the hired guards and they soon returned to their posts, although still nervous when Bone Marrow trotted cheerfully in their direction.

Survivors from Galloping Glades had offered gifts, clothing and Bone's old cloak back. It had been kept for safe keeping by Frosty's father, whom wished him well in his travels. Frosty herself had somehow managed to smuggle an Oatmeal Raisin cookie in her mane and offered it to Bone. Surprisingly, there was a lack of hair or other disgusting baby-filly germs on the treat and he graciously accepted. It didn't stop him from scrutinizing every centimeter of the cookie when he was out of sight, but he soon ate it anyway.

Scenic and her mother were the last ponies that Bone Marrow visited. He wouldn't be able to stay in the manor and he would have to keep on his hooves at all times lest the Knights of the Sun caught up with him. Nopony wanted to see him thrown into a volcano, after all.

"Hey Bone," Scenic greeted her happy friend, "feeling better?"

Bone's glowing hood lifted enough for his skull-pupil'd eyes to be revealed along with a gleeful smile. "I don't think I've ever been this happy to see anypony, let alone see!"

"Your eyes are fixed then?" Scenic's mother asked with a breath of thanks to Celestia, "I was getting frantic just imagining what it was like for you, dear."

"Yep," Bone replied, "Everything is fixed now as far as I can tell. Sight's back, body's back to normal along with my cutie mark, and I even have my cloak. Rich also gave me this great pocket watch!"

Scenic's mother patted Bone on his chest, "You take care of yourself now, you hear? I don't want to be flying over the Everfree and spot another circle of ash with you at the center!"

The colt gave a salute, "Will do!"

Scenic was a bit apprehensive in the situation, turning to face both Bone and her mother. "Hey, mom?"

"Yes dear?"

She bit her lip and looked at her friend. "Would you mind if I went with Bone Marrow?"

The pegasus was quick to protest that idea almost before the words had fully left her daughter's mouth. "Absolutely I mind! Do you realize the amount of danger he's going to be in? I can't put you anywhere near that sort of horror, not any more than you've been already!"

Scenic's ears folded down at that, retracting herself a few steps back from her mother.

"I don't think I can keep you safe, Scenic." Bone admitted, offering a hoof to his only friend. "At least here, I know you'll be safe. Maybe I could even visit?"

"But I want to go with you!" Scenic protested, "Despite the Knights, we've all been more safe with you around, Bone. Way safer than we were with only Bright Idea being our guard. You can just eat any bandits that bother us!"

The young necromancer grimaced at that. "I don't like doing that, Scenic. I'd rather be able to just live my life without having to kill ponies every day of it. The stories already paint me as a monster enough as it is; I don't need to add another chapter to the tale unless they come after me."

The filly's eyes watered at that, her hopes of joining Bone Marrow on his life's adventures evaporating in a miserable smoke right in front of her. She turned to leave, to save herself the embarrassment of breaking down in front of the ponies nearby when she was interrupted by the chest-plate of a guard running into her muzzle.

"The Knights have returned!"

Ponies rushed out of the manor to see what was going on. In the distance they could barely make out a few shining gold blurs through the treeline headed straight for the drawbridge.

"Well," Rich mumbled haughtily, "They seem to be in a bit of trouble. Karmic justice?"

Faint shouting could be heard as the Knights looked behind themselves in a panic as they galloped towards the Manor's walls.

"Sir Rich, should we open the gates?" A nearby guard asked, his hooves readied on the mechanical crank that would lower the drawbridge.

Rich looked down at his friend noting that if he allowed the Knights to enter the manor now, they would find their Necromancer immediately. "Let's see what they have to say first, shall we?"

Bone peeked his hooded head over the wall, his glowing eyes peeking from the darkness as the sun set behind him. "They're back?"

He was joined by Scenic in a flurry of feathers as she landed atop the wall next to Rich. "Is it Pure Intent?"

The noble didn't answer, simply waiting for the armored ponies to approach. A few moments later the Knights had finally arrived at the manor's moat gasping for breath.

"Let us in! They're coming!" A knight desperately yelled, looking over his shoulder.

"Who is coming?" Rich yelled back in challenge.

"The Bright Moon!"

The noble moved away from the wall, motioning to the guard to lower the bridge. "That was quite the unexpected reply."

"What are you doing!? They're going to see me!" Bone protested, ducking behind a stone segment of wall that protected from stray crossbow bolts.

"I imagine the Knights are far more concerned with an approaching army than they are a necromancer, Bone Marrow." Rich replied while motioning for the colt to follow, "If anything, they'll beg for your help."

"What makes you think they have an army?" Scenic questioned, flying alongside her friends as they descended the steps of the wall.

"Well, purely the fact that if one plans to assail a castle, they'll need a minimum of ten times the defenders to ensure victory," Rich replied matter-of-factly. "Judging at last census of the Night Guard's numbers before they fell to the influence of the Nightmare, They should be numbered in at least twenty thousand."

Bone's glowing eyes went wide with worry. "They can't be sending that many ponies here, can they?"

Rich chuckled as he leaped from the final step to the dirty ground, adjusting his expensive outfit. "Certainly not, but knowing that my typical guard numbers around thirty individuals, and with the numbers they have to spare, I can imagine they'll at least send a thousand to be absolutely certain they take my manor."

The final clank of the drawbridge sounded and the Knights scurried across, only to find themselves face to face with the necromancer they had been hunting after sliding to a stop.

"Th-the necromancer!"

"Oh Celestia, have mercy!"

Bone rolled his glowing eyes, partially for the sake of being able to complete the task painlessly once again and for the Knight's reaction to his existence.

"Hold, Knights of the Sun. Where is your leader?" Rich demanded, an authoritative hoof extended in a halting gesture.

Then, Bone Marrow spotted him; seething and filled with self-righteous rage. Pure Intent.

"You!" He shouted while pointing his own armored yet bloodied hoof at Rich, "You were harboring the necromancer all along! Where did you hide him!?"

Bone pulled at one of his eyelids and stuck out his tongue. "Open your eyes Captain, I had mine cut out."

Rich placed a hoof in front of Bone Marrow to separate the two rivals. "Now, hold just a moment. We don't have the time for a righteous crusade of Necromancer hunting with an army approaching my doorstep."

Intent's eyes flickered from Bone- who was now standing patiently rather than agitating the captain further- and the wealthiest pony in Equestria. "Speak."

The noble sighed with relief, "Good. Bone Marrow, the poor soul, is a dear friend of mine-"

Intent scoffed at that, "Friend."

"And, if you'd let me finish without rudely interrupting," Rich continued with a bit of irritation, "He'll help us save everypony in this manor that he can, so long as he doesn't have to worry about you stabbing him in the back and killing us all."

Bone nodded. "I've helped ponies before against bandits in Galloping Glades. I've also met the Bright Moon, and I'm not a big fan of them or their raiding of towns."

"I'll only accept this if you swear to be taken to Canterlot," Pure Intent demanded.

Bone giggled at that. "Or, I could just eat you here and now and not have to worry about anything anymore, right?"

The captain gulped nervously at that, taking a step back. "You wouldn't. You said yourself you allegedly like to help ponies."

He smiled wide at that, his eyes glowing brightly from beneath his hood. "I dunno, I've eaten bandits before; I'm all for trying new things."

Scenic smacked the back of Bone's head, "Bone, stop being creepy."

Rubbing a hoof on his head from the injury, Bone complained, "Aww, but it's fun to make him the scared pony for once!"

The captain gave a nervous chuckle, "So... you won't threaten to eat me and you'll come to Canterlot?"

Bone shook his head with a frown, "Nah, I'll still eat you if you try to hurt me again."

Rich, Bone, Bright Idea and a very nervous Pure Intent were stationed around a table with a map of the Manor in the center, held down against the wind by literal bars of gold.

"Alright," Rich asked with steely resolve, "How many would you say are on the way, Captain?"

Pure removed his bloodied hoof gauntlet, revealing a hastily bandaged hoof behind it. "They should be around here, where my ponies were ambushed by their assassins. Around..." He paused, shaking his head a bit, "eight to nine hundred?"

Bone's eyes glowed a bit brighter at that.

"And how many of your Knights are capable of magic or flight, and ready for battle?" Rich further inquired, moving miniature states of ponies that resembled different forces. They were gold as well, of course.

"Three unicorns, A pegasus, and seven earth ponies. The unicorns are trained in scanning for necromancers- which they're apparently terrible at- and basic healing spells." The captain glowered at Bone Marrow for a moment before refocusing on the task at hoof. "The pegasus are best at hit and run, though I imagine they're going to be occupied with defending the sky above the manor."

Bone raised a hoof. "I could command the flyers to die," He offered nonchalantly.

The captain inched further away from the all-too-excited colt that sat next to him on a stool in order to see the map.

"I... suppose that might work." Rich conceded, "Are you certain you're up for the task?"

Bone nodded. "These ponies aren't the kind that will stop from what I've seen. They wanted me to raise armies of the dead and terrorize towns just so they could swoop in and save the day. I'm not a monster, but I can at least use my special talent to save the regular ponies who just want to live in peace." He then made it a point to stare directly at Pure Intent, "just like I want to live in peace, without being harassed."

Pure Intent sighed with aggravation.

"Focus, everypony." Rich reminded all those gathered, "Bright, are any of the ponies from Galloping Glades willing to lend a hoof?"

The guard nodded, "A few of them know how to use crossbows and others are retired guards. It's fairly simple to teach the others as well."

Rich mulled the idea over for a moment before replying. "We'll station them on the inner wall where the cover is better. They don't have the armor to take even a grazing bolt of magic from the Bright Moon's mages."

"What if the necromancer dies during the battle?" Pure Intent mentioned, staring at Bone Marrow's skull eyes.

"Then we're all dead," Rich replied succinctly. "Except for Bone Marrow, of course. He'll be physically fine."

Bone shook his head. "I won't get hurt."

"That brings up another point," Rich interjected, "Skeletons."

Bone nodded, "How many do we need?"

The noble thought for a moment. "I would say the answer is more. Anypony that falls in battle, and you're certain is dead, should be made into a skeleton. Heal our own ponies if you can, but if you can't... we'll need all the help we can get."

Bone gave a worried look, "I'll do my best to try fixing anypony I come across first."

"Not the Bright Moon of course," Rich countered.

Bone's head wavered side to side. "Maybe if I help them, they won't want to fight anymore?"

Pure Intent shook his head. "We can't take the risk that your vile magics might empower one of our enemies. Killing them is for the best."

The necromancer grumbled at the Captain's reply, but conceded anyway.

The golden pony stamped his hoof onto the center of the map. "Then it's decided? We're allies until the end of this fight, and then Bone Marrow and Pure Intent will go their separate ways."

Bone was the first to nod, The Knight captain following with some hesitation afterward.

Rich removed his hoof and placed his armored helmet on his head. With a click of the helmet's grille securing in place he announced, "Everypony to your stations; we don't have much time before they arrive!"

Assault of the Bright Moon

View Online

Obscenely Rich's manor had turned from noble estate to fortress in little more than an hour. Survivors from the Galloping Glades were quickly instructed on the use of crossbows, unicorn or not. Those that could cast spells were given special positions in each of the four towers that connected the manor's walls, with Bone Marrow being near the main gate. Bright Idea was leading the group of soldiers in charge of ensuring the drawbridge remained closed while Rich lead the rest of his guards on the ramparts, ready to push aside any ladders or shoot down flying ponies.

Pure Intent had informed the ponies on the wall that the Bright Moon were exceptional in night-time raids and sieges, as it was their main role to be a military force capable of defending Equestria alongside the traitorous Princess Luna before she became the Nightmare. They would often employ mercenaries from other kingdoms as well to supplement their own weaknesses.

Seeing as a Necromancer had never bothered to march past Canterlot into the frozen north, Captain Pure Intent had no knowledge of how effective Bone Marrow's magic would be against them, and warned to be on the lookout. The Bat Ponies tended to drop in specialists over the walls, and if their leader knew that Bone Marrow was influencing the battle he could be sure that there would be assassins coming for him.

Scenic chose to stay close to Bone Marrow for the fight with a crossbow of her own that she rested on the walls. Her mother was along the ramparts and a few flaps of her wings away from her daughter as well.

Bone's glowing eyes were like a searchlight as he felt more and more ponies nearing. It was like a wave of energy just waiting to be released, if he could get his hooves on it.

The young necromancer pulled away from the ramparts shaking his head. "I don't think this is going to go well..."

"What do you mean?" Scenic ducked behind cover to reply, "We've got you here, right?"

Bone looked toward his friend with half a smile. "I meant for me. The more ponies I feel coming near; the more of the Bright Moon that get close, the deeper this void inside of me grows."

Scenic was slightly confused. "A void? What do you mean? You were fine when you were in Galloping Glades."

He sighed, "I don't really know. When the Knights were reading off of their list, they mentioned an unfillable void inside of necromancers. The more ponies I feel nearby, the more I feel this sort of... hunger."

The pegasus was careful to crawl towards her friend in case of surprise crossbow bolts to give a reassuring pat on her friend's shoulder. "Come on, Bone. You're a good pony, no weird void is gonna change that."

Bone's left ear twitched and he peered carefully over the tower's rampart. "I don't know about that, because the Bright Moon just showed up."

The faint steady clanking of uniform marching was now growing in the distance. Glowing shields of various colors lead from the front with spears and crossbows behind them pointed skyward. Ponies in dark purple and silver trimmed armor with decorative bat wings on the sides of their helmets.

"Everypony get ready!" Rich shouted into the previously calm night air, "The Bright Moon have arrived!"

Just at the edge of the treeline the army halted. One group made a united step to split down the middle and a somewhat familiar face walked forward.

"Anvil?" Bone blurted out, being careful as he could to not be spotted with his glowing eyes in the dark and moonless night.

"I call for Parley!" Anvil shouted. He was still well out of crossbow range, and possibly spell range too. Any steps closer and he would risk being attacked.

There was a pause from the manor's walls before Rich replied, "Your call is accepted; state your intent!"

"We, the forces of the Bright Moon, declare this manor as a staging ground for an assault upon Canterlot and the return of Princess Luna to her rightful place on the throne!"

A loud snort came from Rich. "I'll not be party to treason, Bright Moon!"

Bone sighed, "Couldn't they just warn them that I'm here? Maybe they wouldn't want to fight if they knew there was a necromancer."

"I regret to inform you then," Anvil shouted in reply, "That your manor will be taken by force! Should you choose to surrender and support the return of Princess Luna, your lives will be spared!"

Bone's eyes dimmed at that, though his own spirits rose. "We won't have to fight?"

"We're prepared to defend this manor to the last, fiend!" Rich retorted with a bit of fire in his voice, "We'll never betray Princess Celestia!"

The young necromancer gave a defeated sigh. "So much for peace, I guess."

"So be it, Noble!" Anvil replied with disdain. "Begin the assault!"

Bone's head shot to attention, peering quickly over the walls. A loud horn sounded as the front ranks closed and Anvil disappeared from sight. Even more unicorn's shield spells went up, now facing in a kind of shell over the front and tops of the Bright Moon's ranks as they steadily advanced on the manor's walls.

From the nearby trees came the leatherwings. Bat ponies with darkened knives in their mouths and screeching loud enough to frighten the survivors. The guards along the wall were quick to respond with bolts launching with a quick snapping towards the flyers, some catching the bolts in their face and chest before plummeting to the ground in a crunching thud of bone and organs.

"Defend yourselves!" Rich shouted loudly, rousing the startled survivors into action. "Keep the skies clear, Bone Marrow!"

Bone took a deep breath and did his best to spot the stealthy ponies gliding through the darkness. His eyes glowed and found small glinting pupils reflected back at him.


Screeching of the soon to be disintegrated was cut short as their bodies turned to ash. Weapons rusted, armor buckled and contorted, flesh turned to ash and bone splintered into powder before vanishing into the night's breeze.

"Spell caster!" A voice from above called out. Bone looked to see a bat pony pointing directly at him and he ducked for cover.

A bat pony had landed directly in the center of the tower, turning quickly in search of the glowing eyes that had just eaten their friend. The pony had only a second to realize what kind of mistake they had made before they too crumbled into painful dust and ash.

"Bone, are you alright?" Scenic shouted, sounds of more horns and trumpets making hearing difficult as the battle continued. "Your eyes are getting brighter!"

The young necromancer looked up to the sky once more, unknowingly eager to find another bat pony to consume. In the back of his mind he knew something was off, but the adrenaline rush of devouring others was beginning to cloud his mind.


He turned just in time for a darkened blade to slice across his chest leaving a deep gash and sending him to the ground from the force. Another bat pony had made their way onto the battlements without him noticing and was dutifully moving forward to finish the colt with another slash.

The pony never got the chance.


The bat stumbled, clutching their chest. Their face contorted in agony as they tried to breathe, coughing blood and choking. In a few short seconds they fell to the ground, their hooves grasping towards their fallen sword in a last desperate attempt at avenging their own death.

"I've had enough of these ponies already," Bone huffed, willing his own wounds to mend themselves.

Bone focused on the pony's bones, willing them to come to life once again. A second pulse brought the glowing blue orbs to the quickly standing skeleton as their flesh melted off into ash.

Bone clacked his hooves in front of the skeleton's face. "Hey, defend me, alright?"

The skeleton quickly nodded, taking up its old sword in its mouth and standing ready.

Let's see how many times ponies try to kill me in one night, Bone mused.

The battle had moved on to a new phase. Makeshift ladders were being raised onto the manor's walls as unicorns did their best to force them away with magic. The shielded mages from the Bright Moon protected the majority of their number from falling rocks thrown by the survivors as well as bolts shot by crossbows.

A second wave was already advancing, however, and they seemed far more capable. Mages lead the front, their horns already alight with the menacing promise of destructive magic boiling just under the surface. Plate armored ponies with enchanted shields followed close behind, their defenses floating alongside their masters as they wielded swords with serrated edges in their mouths.

New flyers came by, slower and more cumbersome when spotted. Bone had attempted to kill or consume these new flying ponies, yet half of them seemed to not care in the slightest about his efforts. He soon found out why when three dropped down onto his tower and confronted him.

His now brightly glowing eyes made it clear that these were not bat ponies. They were ponies made from what appeared to be crystal, their forms shimmering and reflecting the light of Bone's eyes.

Bone's skeleton immediately moved to defend its master, attempting to drive a blade through the collarbone of a crystal pony before it glanced off uselessly into the stone floor.

"A necromancer, huh?" One of the flying crystal ponies grinned, "Haven't seen one of them in a long time."

The skeleton attempted a new strategy, using its hoof to smash the face of one of the ponies with resounding success. Chips of their muzzle and eye flew off, clattering onto the ground as they screamed with pain.

"Deal with the skeleton first, idiots!" The supposed leader of the three shouted, turning their focus away from Bone and towards the necromancer's servant.

Bone focused his magic on them, willing them to die... yet nothing happened. He attempted to consume them, and again, nothing.

Scenic was more pro-active in her attempts at killing the ponies, however. She used the stock of her crossbow to bludgeon one of them on the head until it shattered into pieces on the ground, their body twitching as reflective dust clouded the area.

"Smash them!" The young pegasus advised while moving on to assist Bone's skeleton.

"Well," Bone huffed, "That's something to look out for, I guess!"

The second group had finally arrived at the walls. Bone had time to look over the edge of his tower just in time to witness a massive ball of fire being conjured by several of the mages at once. It shone like the morning sun and felt like an open oven. The mages that had originally shielded their own forces now moved to contain the heat coming from this construct of growing magic, preventing their own unicorns from being reduced to cinders before the spell could be completed.

"Mother of Celestia!"

Bone focused his magic on the mages, willing them to die. A few clutched their chests in response, though Bone assumed the others were far enough to be out of the range of his abilities. The fireball continued to grow, a bit more unstable now that some of the mages were dead. Bone grinned, commanding the recently deceased mages to rise and attack.

Shouts immediately began to ring out from the Bright Moon. Skeletons rose and pounced on the helplessly focused mages, their faces being shredded by skeletal teeth and impaled by horns. Their throats were torn out and their skulls trampled, distracting even more of the Bright Moon away from the main fight just to combat the threat rising in their midst.

"Bone Marrow," Rich shouted over the cacophony of battle, "More dead!"

The necromancer moved to look over the edge of his tower down at the ramparts. Ponies had begun to climb onto the walls and guards were being quickly slaughtered by the advancing army. Sensing outward with his magic, Bone focused on the few un-moving skeletons he could sense in order to not accidentally kill one of his allies and forced their bodies to rise.

Dead guards and Bright Moon alike soon rose, taking up old weapons as their flesh melted away to bone. Their armor remained intact, along with their weapons, and they joined forces with the surviving ponies and Rich's guards. Glowing blue orbs greeted every pony to climb the walls, soon followed by a sword being thrust into their face and their body falling into the moat below.

Once clean water flowed with a murky cloud of bloody red as body after body plummeted to its doom. Bone could sense the waiting corpses like a beacon, his eyes glowing brighter with every casualty.

Rise, and Serve!

He was worried that nothing had happened for a moment, but soon the water began to bubble and boil. Glowing blue lights could be seen through the dense blood in the moat, and they soon marched from the sloped trap into the Bright Moon that awaited their turn to climb onto the walls.

Shouts of warning cried out from the forces below the wall. "Necromancer! Necromancer!"

The surviving mages abandoned their attempt at a wall destroying fireball and instead used their shields to redirect what flame they had conjured into a jet of molten fire directed at the advancing skeletons. Dripping hot magma jutted from the magical contraption, incinerating the skeletons in an inferno that forced Bone to pull away from the ramparts to avoid the intense heat.

Bone pulled his hood down from his head in order to see better, figuring that he didn't have to hide himself in the middle of combat now. "That's new!"

"Focus on that tower!"

The young necromancer poked his head over the ramparts in time to see a wall of crossbows being aimed in his direction, their armor reflecting the flickering fire that had refocused on the outer defenses of the manor.

"We've got to move!" Bone grabbed hold of Scenic and scurried quickly to the Tower's hatch that lead to a staircase down.


Bone had just lifted the hatch when the order reached his ears. Already there was a wave of bolts descending upon him and he pushed Scenic down the stairs in desperation. The bolts begun to strike the stone near him and he was barely halfway through before one found a home inside of his leg.

He screamed with pain as he stumbled the rest of the way down the steps, the bolt snapping off and leaving part of it embedded into his leg. His descent down the staircase ended by striking the chest-plate of one of his own skeletons with his face before the rest of his body rolled to a stop.

Scenic seemed to be fairing better than her friend and was already moving to his injured leg. "Oh Celestia!"

"Pull it out!" Bone shouted, lifting his injured leg and offering it to his friend. He was busy focusing on the battle at the moment and fairly worried about what would happen if another of those crystal ponies surprised him now. "Hurry!"

The filly looked with confusion at the wound for a moment before spotting a piece of splintered wood jutting from it. Hesitating for a moment from thinking about blood in her mouth, she soon bit down on what she could and yanked as hard as she was able.

Bone yelped in pain and hissed through his teeth, using one of his hooves to hold his leg down. "Try again!"

Scenic did as asked, getting a new grip on the bolt and tugged roughly once again. The bolt shredded its way clear of the wound; torn arteries and veins gushing blood onto the stone floor in a quickly expanding puddle.

The necromancer focused his magic on his wound, forcing it to heal as fast as it was able to. His leg tensed before a soothing cold ran through the muscles and he could feel his body mending itself slowly.

Bone managed angry heavy breaths as he watched his magic work. "I hate pain!"

The siege was not going well for the defenders. The Bright Moon's mages had refocused their magical efforts onto the walls and had begun freezing the stone. Flyers were now grabbing hold of surviving ponies and carrying them away from the manor into the darkness and Rich's guards were being slaughtered by their attackers.

Bone and Scenic remained in their tower with a few survivors and Scenic's mother firing bolts out of small slits in the stonework.

"I have to raise more skeletons," Bone grimaced, standing shakily on his newly healed leg. "It's the only way we're going to win this now!"

"You'd better do it fast," One of the surviving ponies replied while reloading their crossbow, "Or the rest of us are going to be the kind of dead we won't wake up from."

"Hey Bone," Scenic suggested, "Why don't you try going bigger with your talent?"

The young necromancer was caught off-guard. "Are you sure? I don't know whats going to happen if I do something like that..."

Scenic pulled her friend close. "Bone, you have all of us to help you through whatever happens, alright? If you don't use your special talent as much as you can, then more ponies are going to die. I know you're scared of that void inside that you talked about, but it might be our only chance!"

Bone looked past Scenic to the battle outside. The walls were coated in ice and the Bright Moon was pummeling it into shards. They would break into the manor soon enough if he didn't help.

His glowing eyes searched the face of his friend, fearing what would happen if he gave in. Would he become a monster just like every other necromancer had? Is that what made them become evil?

The bright blue pegasus pulled her necromancer friend close enough for them to be muzzle to muzzle. "Bone, I swear that I'll stay with you no matter what."

She then planted a quick kiss on Bone's snoot, causing the pure white colt to turn a shade of pink.

Scenic blushed as well before tapping a hoof on her friend's muzzle. "Could you please save all of us now with your spooky skeleton magic?"

Bone poked his head out from the wooden hatch at the top of the tower. Bolts littered the floor like hay in a barn, but no more had fallen. Scenic's small kiss was still fresh on his mind, fighting the void within his heart in an altogether uneasy battle.

"Oh, Celestia... please don't tell me that I'm going to fall in love in the middle of a battle."

He shoved the hatch open, climbing from the stairs onto the top of the tower. Flying ponies swarmed through the sky and had nearly killed all of the second wall's ponies. Bone worried about Bright Idea and Rich, but he refocused when a singing blade scratched his neck from a passing pony's attempt at beheading him.

Bone focused his abilities, sensing pony after pony and skeleton after skeleton within them. "Alright, let's see why ponies are so afraid of necromancers..."

Looking through the battlefield's magical fires and the spraying blood of combat, Bone identified each of the ponies that were on his side the best of his ability as well as those within the tower. The more he focused, the more he felt every movement of bone, every heartbeat, every breath taken.

He thought of killing every single pony there. Would he be able to do it? Did he have enough control over his special talent to actually go through with something like that? Self doubt crept its way into his thoughts, challenging the idea that a colt could perform a feat of magic so grand.

The void inside of him was the first to answer, growing in its demand, its hunger. He could. He could very well kill every pony he saw.

A second voice had a different idea, however. What if he had more control over a pony than just living or dying? He could make them blind, right? He had accidentally done so when his own eyes were being cut out. Perhaps he could... make them fall asleep?

The void demanded their death, to raise them as a skeletal army and deal with them once and for all. To command a legion of undead and to confront Celestia, to force her to leave him in peace with a show of his own ability and the threat of stopping every beating heart in Equestria until he was left alone.

Bone pulled away from the ramparts to avoid a bolt being launched through his head. Would forcing the Bright Moon to sleep actually work? Would it be better to just kill them all and be certain?

He shook his head and shrugged. "I guess if they don't sleep, they die, right?"

The young necromancer focused his magic on the flesh and blood that animated around him in deadly combat. The ponies that he had never met before and that would kill him without a second thought. They wouldn't spare him if they had the chance, he was sure about that. He wanted Scenic to be safe, as well as his other friends. Did those other ponies really have to die for that to happen?

Bone looked over the ramparts once again as more ponies poured over the walls. Drawing a breath he voiced, "I hope this works..."


He gazed down hopefully at the ponies below. Eyes flicking from soldier to soldier, hoping they would fall over. Nothing was happening.

"Oh please don't make me kill all of them!" Bone shouted in protest, redoubling his efforts.

Please Sleep! Stop fighting! Run!

Each command did nothing to the Bright Moon. There had to be a way to make them stop fighting!

Drop your weapons! Retreat!

As he attempted more and more commands it quickly became apparent that his special talent was not going to comply. Everything he was trying was not working. Sleeping, running, terrifying them, even attempting to make them insane. None of it worked.

The mages had switched their spells now, focusing their magic on moving the ground itself into a large ball of dirt and stone. The wall was frozen solid, and this last spell would be more than enough to send it crashing down around everypony. Bone looked at the other side of his tower and noticed Rich and Bright Idea fighting flank to flank with dead bodies all around them.

There's no time...

Bone focused on the ponies he had identified once more, noting that a few of them had perished already. From the corner of his eye, he noticed even more of the Bright Moon marching to assist their allies in the siege.

Lowering his head with a shaking breath, he came to a final conclusion.


Like a wave, the fighting stopped. Plate armor shuffled and ponies gurgled in response to his command. Swords clattered to the ground and ponies dropped from the sky, some crashing into their allies with sickening cracks. Blood flowed from sputtering mouths as hundreds drowned, their lungs shredded and heart crushed into a pulp.

The manor was silent for a time. Survivors and guards that had been about to die pushed themselves from the ground with cries of relief and thanks, some even breaking down into uncontrolled sobs as they crawled away from dead friends they had once shared a lifetime with.

Bone knew that more were coming, and barely anypony had survived up to this point. Sensing the few that were alive, he counted seventeen of their original seventy. He smiled, noticing that Scenic was one of the survivors. Then, to his horror, he realized something was wrong.

She was holding somepony. Her breaths were quick.

He yanked open the hatch to the tower and galloped down the steps as quickly as he could. Reaching the bottom, he witnessed Scenic and her mother... with a bolt in her head.

Her mouth was open, a trickle of blood running down her face from the bolt having pierced through her muzzle and embedding itself in her brain. The necromancer could feel the intrusion in the bone.

"B-Bone!" Scenic cried, holding her mother close, "Save her!"

Looking from the bolt to the mother's lifeless eyes, he wasn't too sure he would be able to help. "I can try..."

Wrapping his teeth around the bolt, he yanked quickly. Bits of brain followed the steel head of the bolt along with blood and bits of cracked bone as it fell to t he ground.

Bone gulped, focusing his efforts onto her.


He went cold, his eyes widening.

Heal! Mend! Live!

It wasn't working, not on her.

"Come on!" Bone shouted in frustration, "Work!"

Come back! Live again!

"Bone, what's going on?" Scenic wondered, her eyes filled with tears that flowed onto her face. "Can't you fix her?"

"I'm trying!" Bone shouted in desperation, willing command after command with nothing working. "I..."

Scenic held the corpse of her mother tightly in her hooves. She couldn't speak now. The young filly was filled with grief as her friend tried again and again to heal her mother.

"Shes..." Bone somberly stated, "She's dead, Scenic."

His friend sobbed loudly, embracing her mother's body.

The necromancer could only stare in stunned silence as his mind attempted to make sense of what had happened.

This is my fault. If I had just killed all those ponies faster, she would still be alive!

His own growing void agreed with him, growing in size along with his anger. I could have prevented this! None of us had to die!

"Scenic," Bone coldly stated, "This ends now. Nopony else we care about is going to die because of me; not tonight."

The young necromancer marched from the room and went straight back up the steps to the top of the tower, the sounds of Scenic's crying dominating his thoughts. He sensed the dead that littered the ground, clumped together in their final desperate attempts at life.

The void grew within him alongside the same fire that burned when Galloping Glades was being attacked. Ever since he discovered his special talent, ponies had died around him. One after the other they fell. Anywhere he stayed was soon attacked, like he was a magnet to misery.

Pulling his hood over his head, he looked out to the new group of Bright Moon that advanced. Heavily armored with even more mages than before. Flying bat ponies taking up the skies above as dawn slowly threatened to give light to the battlefield from behind them.

An angry hissing escaped the necromancer's lips at the sight of them. They had wanted him to bring this level of destruction on towns so they could play the hero. They wanted a monster to fight so they could be heroes, just the same as the Knights of the Sun.

"You'll get your monster," Bone threatened under his breath, "But you won't live to tell about it."

His magic reached out, sensing the dead bodies that grew cold. Fur and skin melted to muscle, and melted to bone. Skeletons rose in a mass of death brought to life, holding their weapons once more. A second wave of magic struck, and the blue glow of their master took hold of their eyes.

Looking to the advancing force, Bone knew exactly the type of command to use now.

Shouting with a voice amplified by his anger and his own magic he shouted, "Kill them all!"

There was no battle cry, no shouting of enthusiasm as the skeletons took flight or climbed the walls. The air grew cold with the march of the dead, rattling bones accompanied by unnatural hissing as the skeletons slammed their hooves into the stone wall and marched directly through it, sending it crashing down on top of themselves before rising once more from the rubble.

The advancing army halted immediately as mages moved to the front of their formations with shield spells. Skeletons unleashed volley after volley of bolts, each never pausing for breath or to let their muscles recover. They were undead; they knew neither sleep, fatigue or mercy. Their master had ordered them to kill, and they would do exactly that.

Surviving ponies in the manor moved away from the dead as they marched forward through the moat. Flying skeletons from dead bat ponies and pegasus swooped down onto the mages and rammed their bodies with frightening force directly on top of them before regaining their balance and flying up into the sky to repeat the same maneuver.

Bone watched behind a mask of cold hatred at the Bright Moon's attempted defense. Spells would cut through lines of his skeletons, only for the dead of their own ranks to be converted into even more for them to face. Mages were targeted above all else, and the moment a shield spell faltered it would attract the attentions of a dozen skeletons to swarm them.

Bolts continued their hail on the Bright Moon as they wavered, faced with their own impending death made into an army. More often than not, the falling projectiles would zip through rib cages of the skeletons. Some impacted bone, of course, though the skeletons fought on until disintegrated by magic or blown apart by a heavy strike.

More ponies died, and more were brought back as the reinforcements of the Bright Moon were pushed back. Bone could feel the cold void within him growing with every death and injury, every raised skeleton that he commanded. His breath was an icy mist, his emotions dulled, and he just barely heard the hatch of the tower opening.

Turning his head with slow detachment from the situation, he spotted his friend Scenic poking her head out.

"Bone?" She called, "Are you okay?"

He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Your mother just died because of me, and you're worried if I'm alright?"

The filly rose from the hatch and closed it behind her, moving past the scattered bolts on the ground to her necromancer friend. She couldn't think of a reply to that, but chose instead to stand next to Bone.

"Scenic," Bone asked, "I'm scared..."

The two shared a look into the other's eyes; a soft magenta confronted by a dark blue glow.

"I am too, Bone." Scenic admitted, "I don't know what to do."

The necromancer broke eye contact, looking out to the battlefield to check on his skeletons. The mages had been killed along with most of the front line. Flying skeletons battled with living bat ponies overhead and it had almost become instinctual to replace his losses with the newly dead of his enemies.

"Do you think they'll send more?" Scenic questioned, wanting to turn the conversation in a less terrifying direction.

Bone shrugged. "I don't even know how many they've sent already. They must really want us dead to send this much."

Scenic glanced at Bone Marrow before moving close to his side, resting her head against his.

The young necromancer shared the gesture, watching the sunrise as his skeletons carved a path through the Bright Moon until their morale broke, forcing them into a full rout as ponies galloped or flew for their lives.

"Should we see who survived?" Bone asked after a pause.

Scenic sighed. "I'm not ready to walk past my mother again."

He nodded with understanding, and the two sat in silence together as the remaining skeletal army marched back to the manor after their successful counter-attack with newly raised undead rushing to catch up.

In All of History

View Online

The two foals could hear ponies shouting after only a few minutes of rest, drawing their attention to the inner walls of the Manor. Obscenely Rich was assisting a guard in moving one of the few remaining ponies from the battlefield, careful to not cause any more wounds with their movements.

Bone Marrow sighed before turning to Scenic. "Well, It looks like some ponies survived after all. I should go down and see if I can help them, at least."

Scenic was a bit hesitant, eyeing the hatch to the starecase. "Bone? Can you..."

The young colt placed a comforting hoof on his friend's shoulder, "Do you want to keep her ashes?"

Her ears folded downward and she pulled away, "No, I mean... I meant that we should go down together. Maybe find a place to... bury my mom?"

Bone took a breath before replying, "We don't know if there will be time for that before the Bright Moon come back. I don't want us caught out in the open for more crystal ponies or mages to catch us off guard."

Scenic's spirits dampened at that with a deepening frown. "I never imagined I'd have to bury my mother, you know? I thought I'd eventually be making cookies for her, when she got old."

She looked up, her ears raising a bit. "Do you know anypony I could stay with? Rich might take me in, but..."

Bone bit his lower lip. Scenic could travel with him, seeing as the both of them survived an entire siege together. He could protect her if he kept the army he had raised from the Bright Moon; maybe build a house somewhere far away?

"What if you went with me?" Bone suggested, "I can keep you safe."

The filly hummed in thought for a moment before nodding. "I probably should stay with you; You don't do too well on your own, judging from how my mom found you in the forest with a bolt in your heart."

Bone smiled at that, "Hey, if I hadn't been killed twice that day, I would never have met you."

The two young ponies shared a hug, partly to comfort the other with the loss of Scenic's mother and for the reassurance that they would remain together.

There was a voice shouting from below, calling for any other survivors of the battle.

The young necromancer took a deep breath. "Do you want me to go down the steps first? I could still cremate her, in a way."

Scenic grimaced at that, "Are you sure you should, though? What about that void inside of you?"

Bone paused for a moment of introspection, doing his best to determine the extent of his hunger.

He shook his head, "I think I can manage it."

The two made their way past the scattered bolts atop the tower and slowly advanced down the staircase to the waiting body of Scenic's mother. Bone was quick to consume her, though he did look away. He wanted to imagine that her body had simply vanished and gone to a better place as the horrible sound of crunching and snapping bone came to his ears.

Looking back to a waiting pile of ash the necromancer sighed. "Rest well."

Scenic walked next to Bone, witnessing the ashes of her mother. "Goodbye, mom."

Bone gestured to the ashes. "What should we do with them?"

The filly looked outside through a slit in the stonework. "She always loved to fly; might as well help her fly forever, right?"

The colt was feeling pangs of regret now, realizing that he had never done anything for the ashes of his own parents. He then also remembered that so many ponies had been reduced to a similar state that it would be impossible for him to distinguish one pony's remains from another.

"Do you want to place the ashes in an urn?" Bone suggested.

Scenic nodded. "We can see if Rich is still alive. Maybe he could help with that."

The sound of plate armor clanking nearby made Bone jolt in surprise, moving quickly out of the tower and onto the ramparts. Looking outward, he saw nothing but the birds flitting from tree to tree, singing peacefully.

"Necromancer," The Captain of the Sun grumbled, "You have been summoned by the noble."

Turning around with a slow anger, Bone was caught off guard by the Captain's wounds. His chest-plate had a deep gash in the center of it, his shoulders had been burnt by magical fires, blood coated his hooves and his helmet was nowhere to be seen. Pure Intent looked worn ragged, battered, bruised and barely stood upright from the looks of him.

"Whoa," Bone blurted in surprise, "What happened to you?"

"Combat," He snipped in reply, "and though I am loathe to admit it, my life was saved by one of your horrible skeletons."

The necromancer made a few grumbling noises of his own, "Maybe I should've waited a bit longer, then..."

Pure Intent pointed a freshly wounded hoof at Bone Marrow. "Necromancer, what you've done today is both a blessing and a curse. You've saved the lives of my fellow knights and myself, the few ponies that were able to survive both their town being burned and this battle, and one of the noble houses of Canterlot."

He paused for a moment, waging some internal conflict with himself as Bone observed.

With teeth clamped shut in anger, Pure hissed, "As you have saved my life, I am obligated to spare yours. I will return to Canterlot with word of what has happened here today, of your efforts to save innocent ponies despite being an abomination to Equestria."

Bone's head tilted to one side in confusion. "I'm not sure if that's an insult, or a 'thank you'."

Pure's eye twitched. "Take what you can get, necromancer." Pointing down to the gathering group of ponies he added, "There are wounded that could be aided by your unnatural magics."

The young necromancer smirked from under his hood, "Think they'll go to Canterlot with you and tell everypony to stop hunting me?"

The captain chose to ignore that comment, instead turning on his hooves and stepping slowly down the stairs with pained breathing as his wounds reminded him of his own mortality. Gathering his Knights, all of which happened to have survived the combat, he quickly left the manor in the direction of Canterlot by winding directly through the Everfree rather than taking the roads again.

Bone Marrow and Scenic walked together towards the group of surviving ponies. Nine guards, five ponies from the town, Rich and Bright Idea.

"Well, at least nopony has died from when I checked last," Bone mused. "Rich, are you there?"

The golden pony's head turned, not a single scratch or dent on his armor. "Bone Marrow! I'm especially glad to see that you're still alive."

Bone pointed a hoof to Rich. "I'm guessing nopony had the bits to harm you?"

The noble guffawed, "On a rebel's pay?"

A few weary ponies looked up from their bandaged wounds, a tired smile across their face. "The necromancer!"

The hooded colt gave a slightly awkward wave, "Hi..."

"You saved us!"

"I would be dead without your skeletons!"

"You're a life saver!"

For some reason all of the praise was making Bone Marrow uncomfortable. He had wanted to be a hero, but ever since the town of Galloping Glades had been attacked he felt that he wouldn't deserve the right to be named one. He had murdered ponies; devoured them, even. Killed others for the threat they presented his friends and just hours ago he caused the deaths of hundreds of ponies.

He chose to remain silent on that subject, not wanted to dampen the spirits of the few survivors remaining.

"Does anypony need help with their wounds? I still have more than enough magic left over," Bone offered, his eyes glowing brightly to add credit to his claim.

"Over here!" A green pony mare shouted, "Those darned Bright Moon sliced my hip!"

Looking up, he noticed the pony in question and moved to assist. There was a nasty gash along her flank, just above her cutie mark: an Apple Pie.

"You're sure about this," Bone voiced as a disclaimer, "I've never healed anypony else before."

The mare insisted, pointing to her injury. "You might have some mighty strange magics there, kiddo, but my hip ain't gonna let me walk the rest of my life if ya leave it like this."

The pony's accent was interesting to Bone and prompted a question as he focused on the wound, "Where are you from?"


"Oh, we Smiths travel around from place to place; lookin' to settle down and make a farm... Oh my, that feels wonderful!" The green pony remarked, staring at her wounded hip that mended itself in front of her eyes. "I feel better already!"

She looked away from her wound for a moment and extended a hoof. "Ponies call me Granny Smith, on account of me actin' older than my age. You'd be... that Bone fella, right?"

Bone nodded with a smile at the pony's interesting mannerisms. "Bone Marrow, ma'am."

Smith batted a hoof, "Oh, don't go callin' me ma'am just yet. You gotta wait till I'm older!"

"Hey, could I get some help over here?"

Bone looked away from the mare he was tending to find Bright Idea nursing his head. Bandages were wrapped all around his eyes and horn, and Bone winced in sympathy.

"You run along now, dearie. I can see you've got other ponies to help."

The young necromancer nodded and gave a final smile to Granny Smith before heading off to his nearby injured friend.

"How bad is it," Bright Idea asked while lowering onto his backside, "I think I felt something hit my eye, but my body's too numb to tell what happened."

Bone used his magic to unravel the bandages with precise care, realizing in horror that his friend's horn had been sliced off by a blade and sparked whenever Bright's head moved. His right eye had been mashed into a pulp, most likely from a pony's armored hoof colliding with his face.

"Eh..." Bone paused with worry, "It looks bad."

"Can you fix it?"

"Might as well try," Bone conceded, focusing his magic on Bright's wounds.


Bright's eyes shut closed as a sigh of relief escaped him. "Ooh, that feels nice."

His horn emitted a florescent light as a strand of bone grew from the center of it, soon expanding outward into what had been his original horn. Bright's eyes closed, the bruises faded and the wounds mended. When he opened his eyes once again, he blinked a few times in wonder.


Pony after pony called for aid after that display. Fixing a broken horn was mostly unheard of, even for the best healers in Canterlot. Any reservation about seeking the Necromancer's aid was drowned out by the implied promise of being fully healed and freed of their pain in a matter of moments.

Each pony that Bone helped, however, only made him feel worse. What about all the ponies he didn't save; Scenic's mother prime among them? The young necromancer decided to focus on his work, doing his best to bring the few living ponies closer to the life they had known without the injuries suffered during the battle.

Scenic had asked Rich for an urn in the meantime, using the noble's assistance to collect the ashes of her mother under the guard of Bone's skeletons that were now stationed along all of the walls and assembled next to the breach in the manor in a tightly packed formation. She had soared high into the sky above the Everfree before opening the urn's lid, spreading her mother's ashes with a helpful nudge from the weather.

When the filly returned, she set the urn down next to Rich and stuck close to her friend for the remainder of the passing hours.

The surviving ponies along with Bone Marrow's skeletal army waited for night to fall once more, the living among them now feeling empowered and invigorated by the necromancer's magic. A few of the older ones had appeared younger a few hours after their treatment as well, providing and unexpected side effect of the magic that Bone commanded. The ponies had the idea in their minds that with Bone's help, they would live forever so long as they avoided a fatal blow.

Bone wasn't too eager to challenge those ideas and instead remained silent, hoping that nopony else would die tonight.

The skeletons along the walls swiveled their heads in all directions while ones with crossbows scanned the skies for anything out of the ordinary and vaguely pony shaped. Like a sea of glowing blue dots, the manor's walls were lit with a silent menace that promised doom to any who approached.

Occasionally looking through the eyes of his servants, he paused when one of them noticed movement in the treeline. The Bright Moon were using the same approach they had last time, though something seemed odd.

Bone's vision returned to his own body as his head went back with surprise. "They only sent one pony?"

He rushed to the walls for a look of his own, standing on his hind legs to see past the ramparts due to his height. Sure enough, a single pony made a cautious advance towards the manor, a single hoof held high.

"I call for parley!" The voice of Anvil shouted once again.

"Get bent!" A voice shouted back.

"Parley!" Anvil demanded once again.

"Where is your army, Anvil?" Bone yelled in his coltish voice, "Are you planning some kind of trick?"

The armored bat pony stopped in his tracks. "Come out and speak with me, Bone Marrow!"

Rich was surprised by this. "You two know each other?"

Bone nodded, "He was the pony that wanted me to be a monster for them."

The noble scoffed at that. "Typical. He most likely wanted to use you as a recruitment tool for his little rebellion against Princess Celestia."

A few skeletons broke from their formation and marched slowly through the watery moat before arriving on the other side, water running down their armor and weapons.

"Stay where you are, Anvil. You're coming inside!" Bone shouted out, gaining some surprised voices asking what he was planning on doing.

The armored pony looked with horror at the advancing skeletons, doing his best to hold his composure as four of them lifted the pony into the air and stared at him with silent menace.

The servants carried Anvil to the edge of the moat, some readying themselves before launching the bat across the water into the hooves of waiting skeletons. Anvil was capable of flying, of course, but Bone made a point of having every nearby skeleton with a crossbow trained on him at all times. The intention was clear: any sudden moves and he would become a very large pin-cushion.

When Anvil had arrived and brushed himself off as well as he was able, he was confronted by Obscenely Rich and Bone Marrow.

"So," Rich began, "A second parley?"

The enemy commander nodded a bit sheepishly, "More... like a declaration of retreat. My forces refuse to assault your manor again after the last battle. I didn't believe them when they talked of an army of the dead but looking around... I can understand their sentiment."

Bone had a skeleton of his give a reassuring pat on Anvil's back, only causing him to panic and back away from the undead minion. The necromancer had a small laugh in response.

"Why come here yourself, then?" Rich asked, suspicion laced in his voice. "Bone Marrow didn't kill all of your forces, did he?"

Anvil shook his head quickly, still keeping an eye on the surrounding skeletons. "No, they simply refuse to advance in this particular direction. They would rather cut down trees and build a fortress than attempt to take this one again."

"Come on, Anvil," Bone chided playfully, enjoying this moment all too much, "I thought you were going to be a hero, fight the monsters and save Equestria?"

A skeleton leaned in close to the commander, its jaw opening and closing with the clattering of teeth.

"Monsters are scarier up c-close." Anvil stuttered in reply.

Bone paused for a moment of thought. Anvil was the leader of the Bright Moon, at least as far as he knew. He could end their rebellion against Celestia here and now. A part of him gave some restraint, however.

"Anvil?" Bone asked suddenly. "Why should you leave this manor alive? Why did you think it would be a good idea to come here, alone, and try to talk with us?"

Bone's skeletons moved closer, a few placing hooves on Anvil's armor from each direction.

"Why would you think it was a good idea to confront any of us, expecting that we would just let you walk away after all the ponies you killed? My friend's mother, rest her soul, hasn't been dead for more than a day and you have the nerve to walk all the way out here, by yourself, and tell us that your army won't fight?"

Anvil gulped in reply, his mouth suddenly very dry as beads of sweat came from his forehead.

"You forced me to kill hundreds of ponies when you could've just walked away," Bone continued, "Hundreds! I don't want to kill anypony, but you and your army of bat ponies and rebels want to overthrow Celestia so badly that you'd all die for it. Why?"

"S-she's a tyrant!" Anvil blurted in reply, shielding his face as more skeletons loomed over him. "She banished her own sister to the moon for who knows how long, all because she couldn't see eye to eye with her!"

Rich burst out into laughter, excusing himself for a moment by turning his helmet head away from the commander.

"Celestia, a tyrant?" Bone questioned. "That's the best you've got? Does that work on other ponies you find; ones that don't have anything to lose and decide to throw their life away? I'll bet it's pretty easy to recruit hopeless ponies when you burn their town to the ground."

Anvil pointed to the young necromancer, "B-but look at all she's done to you! The Knights will hunt you relentlessly until they throw you in a volcano!"

Bone stepped back, his head turning away from the bat pony.

"They do the same to other ponies, to other nations that threaten Equestria!" Anvil continued, now emitting a rambling babble for his life. "Think of the griffons, of the Minotaur, the Diamond dogs! Why don't they leave Equestria alone, why don't they go to their own nations and improve it? They can't! We've spent decades going from country to country and raising it to the ground, all to ensure that Equestria would never be threatened. Why do you think all the other nations aside from us live in poverty, in shacks and huts!"

"That's more than enough out of you, traitor." Rich hissed, his temper rising as Anvil spoke.

Bone raised a hoof, and his own skeletons held the noble back. "I want to hear what he has to say, Rich."

Anvil took an unsteady breath and continued. "That's what Princess Luna was so upset about. The fact that Celestia was seeing monsters in the corners of the world when there were none! Even necromancers like yourself were peaceful before they went mad, hunted for centuries before they couldn't take it anymore and went on a suicidal march to the capitol!"

"How would you explain Nightmare Moon then, traitor?" Rich countered with an air of superiority to the frightened commander.

"S-she..." Anvil stammered, his shoulders slumping. "I don't know. I can't even imagine what would have caused her to do such a thing, but she doesn't deserve to be banished for all time because of it!"

Bone was curious now. "What makes you think she'll be gone forever?"

The pony's eyes went wide, "She used the Elements of Harmony on her own sister! Nopony comes back from that, not in all of history!"

The noble wasn't convinced in the slightest. "You think you actually have a chance, confronting Princess Celestia of all ponies with that army of yours? What do you think you'd gain, even if you won? Only she can use the Elements; it would be a pointless gesture and end only in tragedy."

"Celestia would have to open her eyes to the misery she is causing!" Anvil explained, his fear being drowned by his own zeal. "Princess Luna couldn't get through to her, but maybe if we joined forces she would see that--"

A skeleton placed a hoof on Anvil's mouth, causing him to mumble before sputtering in disgust.

"I've heard enough," Bone angrily replied. "Leave now, and I won't kill you. Seek me out again, and I'll kill every single member of your army until you're the only one left, and then have them tear you apart."

The skeletons released their hold on the commander, allowing him to rise to his hooves.

"B-but without your help, so many ponies will die!"

Bone's eyes burned brightly with an inner flame of blue against the skulls within. "Leave."

Anvil's ears immediately shot down as he backed away in fright. He understood the message clearly, taking to the skies to fly as far and fast away as he could.

The necromancer sighed, his anger dying down. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm the monster, or if everypony is in some way or another their own monster."

The rest of the night passed peacefully after their encounter with Anvil, the sun slowly rose as it had every morning, and the yawning of waking ponies sounded through the courtyard. Bone hadn't slept as he was now used to his body not requiring sleep or rest, even if his hooves hurt occasionally from walking. He shrugged, realizing that he could just heal himself if he ever hurt too much to continue on.

What Anvil had said still troubled his mind, however. He claimed that Celestia was an uncaring tyrant, but nothing he had ever heard of her before had mentioned anything like that. From the books and stories he had read and been told, Princess Celestia was a kind and benevolent ruler that didn't age, didn't get sick, and cared for her ponies more than anything else.

How would she neglect her sister, then? Why did Anvil say that Celestia had sent her sister to destroy other nations into rubble? It didn't seem right. It felt like there was something missing in the bat pony's story.

An idea crossed Bone's mind. He could always see what the Princess was up to at the moment, couldn't he? He knew her name after all.

Would that be a good idea, or a terrible one?

Bone looked to the ground in thought. He would be announcing his existence to Celestia if he looked through her eyes. It would give her all the more reason to hunt him, and possibly send Pure Intent back to find him once again. What would he even gain from it? A glimpse at a palace, maybe a map at best...

A part of Bone goaded him on, asking what the downside would be if he was already being hunted. It's not like the posters with his face would be taken down anytime soon. Anvil said that necromancers were chased for centuries before they just gave up.

Looking at the distant sunrise, the young necromancer shrugged.

Princess Celestia.

His vision swam into a blacked abyss that shifted with a murky blue tinge before he found himself staring at a mirror. He was tall now, and began looking at his hooves in shock. The eyes of Celestia moved to the standing mirror as she pulled on her eyelid, staring closely at the blue skulls that rested within.

She grinned.

By Royal Request

View Online

Bone was captivated by the appearance of Princess Celestia, her grin included. Her mane flowed in some sort of ever-present gentle breeze, the aurora of dark blue fading into a pleasantly soft green; the pink stripes in her mane and tail blended together seamlessly without a beginning or end, as if they were a portal to someplace far more spectacular.

Celestia leaned into her mirror, bringing the blue skull of Bone's vision to the front. A ring of soft purple and pink colored her eye as her face turned from side to side, ensuring the mark wasn't a work of her imagination. Pulling back, her grin turned into a delighted smile and her horn was set alight with a sunny glow.

From the mirror's reflection, Bone witnessed a quill being dipped in ink along with a scroll floating next to it, quickly scribbling something down as the Princess tapped her hoof in thought. After a short moment, the quill soared away into its ink well and the page floated in front of Celestia, allowing the necromancer to read what had been written.

Bone Marrow, is it?

Come to Canterlot, we have much to discuss.

You can bring your skeletal army with you, if it makes you feel comfortable.

Her eyes looked away, bringing Bone Marrow's sight along with it. Princess Celestia looked to the door of what appeared to be her private bedroom to face none other than Captain Pure Intent, his armor absent as he was wrapped in clean white bandages.

The Princess waved a hoof at him, urging him to come closer. Bone could see the silent surprise of the Knight, his eyes widening as he caught a glimpse of the skulls within. When he was close enough, the Princess reached out and pulled the captain close to her, pointing at the mirror and sighed with apparent relief.

Pure Intent was just as confused as Bone Marrow was, but the young necromancer was even more interested in what was going on and continued to watch the silent progression of events. Bone could see the captain speaking rapidly, his chest rising only to take in another large breath as Celestia politely nodded. She offered him a cup of tea as well, but the knight refused and only redoubled his chatter.

The view through Celestia's eyes squinted as Pure Intent came to the end of his report, looking nervously at the skulls in her eyes before pointing his hoof toward the previously rebuked tea-cup, which the Princess floated over to him. Looking back into the mirror, Bone was surprised to see the Princess actually appear indecisive.

Her magic grabbed quill and scroll once more, the previous lines scratched out when Bone was allowed to read.

You saved Captain Pure Intent from certain death and routed an army bound for Canterlot?

You had your own eyes cut out to avoid others being imprisoned?

I have more than a hundred questions for you, Necromancer.

Please, come to Canterlot; I extend an offer of truce, if you are willing to accept it.

Soon I will look at two different plants. One will be a Sunflower; the other, a Night Lily.

If you accept my offer, consume the sunflower. If not, consume the night lily.

"Wait," Bone asked himself with surprise, "I can use my powers when I'm looking through other pony's eyes!?"

Sure enough, Celestia moved herself to a window sill. Two potted plants sat nearby, one in the sun and the other hiding nearby in the shadow on a glass table. The Princess waited patiently, looking between each of the plants.

Bone gulped... and consumed the Sunflower. It disintegrated into a pile of ash, and Celestia's view nodded.

"Oh, what have I done?" Bone worried aloud, galloping down from his tower towards the other ponies he knew to tell them what had happened. "I'm an idiot! I'm so dead! Not the inconvenient kind of dead, but the dead-dead kind of dead!"

Tiny hooves clacked against stone as he ran down what remained of the collapsed wall, his skeletons parting to make a clear path for their master. A small cloud of dirt gathered in Bone's haste, drawing the attention of the ponies nearby.

"What's the rush? Are the Bright Moon back?"

"No!" Bone shouted in reply, "Worse!"

This understandably made more than a few ponies alarmed as they grabbed hold of weapons and readied themselves. Sliding past a corner in the manor, Bone barely had time to stop before colliding with his friend Scenic.

"Whoa, Bone. Everything okay?"

The young colt shook his head, his voice panicked. "No, I just did something stupid!"

Scenic reached out to grab hold of her friend but he was already launching into another full gallop in search of Obscenely Rich. Eventually after checking dozens of gold trimmed rooms with silk drapes, Bone Marrow spotted the noble in question enjoying a hot beverage while overlooking the courtyard, dressed in a comfortable robe.

"Bone Marrow! My favorite necromancer," Rich replied, his eyebrow raising with concern, "what troubles you?"

The necromancer paused for a moment, gathering his breath before explaining the situation in a continuing ramble. "I just went up to the tower to get some time alone for myself and to enjoy the quiet when I wondered if I should see what Anvil said was true or not; you know, the whole evil tyrant thing. So, I decided 'Oh, why not, I'm hunted by everypony anyway so why don't I just look through Celestia's eyes and see what she's up to since I knew her name."

He paused for a deep breath as Scenic and Rich's expressions changed from concerned to worried, and eventually reached fearful.

"So, I said her name and my vision went to her eyes as it usually does when I look at another pony. She looked in the mirror and noticed that I was there, but started to write something down. She said I should come to Canterlot and talk with her. I thought that was suspicious and sounded like a trap, but then Pure Intent came in the room and talked with her. Then, she wanted me to come to Canterlot because of what the Captain said and it didn't seem like before; she declared a truce and had me agree or disagree to come."

Rich held out his hooves, "Hold on, hold it. You looked through the eyes of the Princess!?"

Bone's head tilted sideways a bit with confusion, "Yeah, I told you that just now."

The noble blinked in response, his disbelief only increasing. "Go on, I suppose."

"So," Bone continued to explain more calmly, "Princess Celestia wants me to come to Canterlot to speak with her, and... I agreed to come."

Obscenely Rich was very thankful of the fact that he was not drinking at the current moment, carefully setting his drink down before allowed himself an outburst. Taking a moment to let the news sink in as well as gather his breath, he replied with a very loud, "What!?"

The Necromancer practically sucked his lips back into his own face at the shout, now feeling even more doomed from Rich's reaction.

"Can you... do it again?" Scenic asked, offering her own voice in the discussion.

Both necromancer and noble were none too keen on this idea, so the filly decided to explain.

"Well, if you can drop in and check on the Princess at any time, you'll know if she's planning something bad, right? Like if there's an army of guards marching out of the throne room then it's probably a trap."

Bone and Rich shared a look of dawning comprehension before nodding with approval at Scenic.

"I still think this is a terrible idea." Rich voiced, taking a sip of his beverage and looking off into the distance through an expensive window. "You're going to get yourself permanently killed if you wander into Canterlot."

Scenic was curious. "Are you going to take your army with you for safety?"

Bone shook his head. "What good would that do? Everypony would just run away and scream in terror if they saw a necromancer like me leading an army into the city..."

"You'll need an outfit if you're to see the Princess," the golden pony suggested to change the subject, "and no, I don't mean cutting your eyes out again. You need proper clothing, not just your cloak. It's not polite to see Princess Celestia without an outfit."

Bone and Scenic were confused. "You're going to help?"

Rich set down his drink once more, hopping from the recliner he rested in. "You, my dear Bone Marrow, may have the only chance in history to not be thrown into a volcano compared to the other three necromancers that have come before you. In recorded time, none have actually been so stupid as to actually look through Celestia's eyes."

The noble quickly trotted past the two foals, calling for any surviving servant's attention.

"I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing..." Bone murmured, following after Rich.

"There!" Rich's servant announced with a proud inflection, "Looking absolutely stunning, for a necromancer."

Bone extended one of his hooves, marveling at the fine stitched clothing he now wore. A deep blue shirt of silk combined with a white vest and black coat. A small hoofkerchief poked out of his left chest-pocket with a small blue skull design proudly displayed, each pocket lined with silver thread.

The necromancer's mouth opened with speechless silence as he looked to his other hoof, noting the same spectacular craft. Looking up, he noted that the servant was a unicorn mare almost as white as himself, a sparkling shine in her eye.

"Will that be all, Sir Rich?" the servant asked with a short bowing of respect.

"Thank you, Radiance; that will be all."

Scenic raised a hoof of her own. "Do I get a fancy outfit?"

Rich shook his head. "I don't think you should be going anywhere near a confrontation between Princess Celestia and Bone Marrow. Especially judging from history's recollection of what happened the last three times..."

Bone was now even more nervous. "Ah, what do you mean by that?"

The noble looked to the ceiling in recollection. "Well let's see. The first necromancer was torn apart by the full force of the sun; that was fairly spectacular. The second was thrown from the top of Canterlot Mountain repeatedly since he kept attempting to come back before being eventually drowned in lava, and the third... well. The third was simply carried off to volcano and melted again and again until she didn't come back."

Sweat was making tiny beads on Bone's forehead, his mouth dry. "Y-you don't think she'll..."

"It's absolutely possible if you say the wrong thing, she'll have you killed," Rich replied without hesitation. "It's your own fault for contacting her directly in the first place. Now that she's taken a special interest in you, I doubt she'll let you slink away into the night to be hunted for a few centuries."

The well dressed necromancer sighed. "Well... It was gonna happen sooner or later, right?"

Scenic nodded to the nearby window overlooking the courtyard. "What about your army?"

He blinked regularly, his vision shifting from skeleton to skeleton as he checked what was going on outside the manor.

"I'll leave them here; maybe take... four or five of them with me for protection?" Bone smiled, "I don't want another crossbow bolt through the heart again."

"They're going to stand out pretty bad..." Scenic reminded her friend, "Especially with the whole... dead thing."

Bone grimaced, "Yeah, they're going to freak out ponies if they get spotted."

Rich clacked his hooves together, "Radiance! I have a new task for you..."

The unicorn mare's head poked from around the room's doorframe with a wide smile on her face. "Outfits for skeletons?"

The noble's eyes narrowed, "You were eavesdropping, weren't you?"

Radiance looked guilty, her eyes darting to anywhere but her employer's gaze. "Ah, maybe?"

"Good," Rich replied, "Now I won't have to explain why."

Bone stood outside the inner gate of the manor as his skeletons lowered the drawbridge with the steady clanking metal that accompanied a chain-pulley system. He decided to bring six skeletons with him, just for the sake of uniformity when he made his appearance and the vague hope that if Celestia did attempt something, he would have maybe half a second longer to panic before getting vaporized.

The skeletal servants accompanying Bone Marrow had been adorned with silver plate; their uniforms a padded cloth of deep blue and white stripes that was completed by a black cape that made them indistinguishable from a living noble's guard, though they happened to be eerily silent. The cloth provided protection from swords and puncturing attacks since the skeletons had to make up for a lack of muscle to cover, and the consideration of heat was easier to work around due to the their being dead. The plate armor furthered their durability and would deter most bandits on sight, giving more security to their master in addition to the swords scavenged from the Bright Moon.

Bone smiled proudly at both the tailor named Radiance as well as his newly adorned skeletal guards. "This is awesome."

Radiance smiled, "I'm glad you approve, darling!"

The necromancer then looked to his friend and offered a hug of goodbye. "You stay safe, alright? I don't want you getting hurt while I'm gone and... if I don't come back..."

Scenic protested almost immediately when she realized what Bone was saying. "You mean I'm still not coming with you?"

Bone pointed to the manor around them. "Look at this place! If you stay here you'll be safe. If you come with me, Celestia will obliterate us both if something bad happens. I don't want to know what I'd do if I lost you, so if you stay here I won't have to worry about you being captured or hurt or... worse."

"What am I supposed to do?" Scenic asked, feeling a bit betrayed by being left behind. "Everypony I know is dead!"

The necromancer grimaced at that, having become so used to that fact for himself that he had nearly forgotten what it was like. "Ah..."

Scenic stamped her hoof, her wings expanding with her temper. "I'm coming with you, Bone. If Celestia wants to throw you into lava, then I'm going too!"

Rich interjected between the two foals, his hooves pressing against their chests until they slid across the dirt away from each other.

"Bone Marrow is correct, Scenic. While you stay here, under my care, no harm will come to you." The noble continued with an official detachment, "If you adventure with your necromancer friend, you will eventually die. Either from conflict, subterfuge or the woes of old age. How would that affect him then, if you died in his hooves?"

Scenic was confused, shaking her head as if the situation would alter itself in her favor. "What do you mean? Bone will get old too, won't he?"

The young necromancer shook his head and Rich explained, "Whenever Bone Marrow dies, either by old age or any other reason, he will return to life. You, dear Scenic, will not."

"I want you to be happy, Scenic," Bone Marrow explained, "If I'm running all my life, or if I'm thrown into a volcano by Celestia, you won't be happy. You'd be miserable following me around everywhere, with all that I have to manage and how few ponies actually take the time to understand who I am."

Bone moved around Rich, pulling his friend closer for a comforting hug. "Live a happy life, alright? Find somepony special; somepony that isn't chased every day of their life and killed on a regular basis." He lifted the golden pocket watch around his neck, pulling the lid open with his magic. "And hey, I'll always have you close by, one way or another; right?"

The mirror showed a photograph of Bone Marrow and Scenic, leaning on each other and gazing into the rising sun. Both foals were happy with gentle smiles and slightly squished faces from their shared moment.

Scenic returned Bone's hug, whispering in his ear, "If you get killed by Celestia, I'm bringing you back to life. Even if it's just to say 'I told you so'."

The foals' hug deepened and lasted for a few minutes before Rich decided that Bone and Scenic would stay that way for eternity if he didn't do something about it. Urging Bone Marrow to be on his way, the necromancer soon left with a final wave of goodbye to his friends.

Walking along the road was less eventful than Bone had imagined with his disguised guards. He looked every bit the adventurous noble from a distance, though his cloak did its best to conceal the necromancer's true nature. Radiance had made it a point to teach Bone Marrow how to magically clean his clothing before he left, being borderline neurotic about dirt and grime getting anywhere.

Bone didn't really mind it much, though he figured he may as well keep the attire clean as much as he could on his day's journey to Canterlot. What bothered him more, however, was the feeling of impending doom that each hoof step brought as he came closer and closer to the Capitol of Equestria.

The necromancer regarded his minions for a moment, noting their uniformed march to distract himself from the gloomy walk. The corner of his mouth turned up in thought. "I'm gonna have to work on that, aren't I?"

The skeleton looked to him almost questioningly.

Bone gestured to the six of his servants with a hoof as he walked. "You're all marching in unison. Ponies don't usually do that; It might give all of you away."

They seemed to understand as each skeleton stumbled for a moment, switching up their hoof steps to be more random. Bone's ears folded back, impressed.

"It's really that easy?" Bone questioned himself now, uncertain about what was being implied. "Are all of you alive, or are you just..."

The skeleton had no reply to give, instead looking forward blankly.

Bone rolled his glowing eyes, "There has to be some kind of instruction manual for all of this. Even Celestia knows more about my abilities than I do, and necromancy is my special talent!"

The clanking of armor and trotting of hooves continued for minutes, the boredom getting the better of the young colt. "I hope she has a book about necromancy; and that she doesn't kill me."

Looking to his skeletons again he asked, "Do you think we're all going to die?"

The skeleton shrugged.


View Online

Bone Marrow had decided to conserve his own energy from the long marching, taking up residence on the back of a skeleton while he closed his eyes. It was simple enough to cycle through the eyes of his minions, and they could do the work for him when it came to admiring the scenery.

The entire walk had been calm and peaceful, something that was a now completely foreign concept to him. He had quickly moved from paranoia onto boredom in the span of four hours and now switched between his different minions, talking with himself to pass the time.

"Skeletal Minions, my strong detail; What are the chances that we should fail?"

One minion turned to another, possessed by Bone Marrow in order to answer the first.

"Necromancer, small and weak; Is the truth really what you seek?"

Bone rolled his eyes. "This is terrible. How far are we from Canterlot?"

His vision shifted to a skeleton in the front, scanning the dirt road ahead of the group for signs of interest. Trees, chirping birds and skittish squirrels were all that greeted him.

Bone gave a loud groan of annoyance to the sky. "I know Rich said it was only a day's travel, but walking has never been this horrible before! It's boring and frightening at the same time. Is this what non-necromancer ponies feel when they're in the woods? Afraid for their lives, hoping that nothing will happen and at the same time really hoping that something does happen?"

He turned his head to a skeleton that was walking alongside his moving chair. "What do you think, huh? I've probably asked you all a thousand times if we're going to get roasted by the sun as soon as we set hoof in Canterlot, but it won't be that bad, will it?"

The disguised skeleton instead pointed an armored hoof to the front of the group, drawing Bone's attention. The path was coming to a clearing into open ground! Bone rolled from his seat onto the dirt, his eyes wide and eager to be out of the Everfree Forest.

He could see it, closer than ever before in the distance yet still far away. Canterlot.

Bone never had the time to really stare and admire the city before since it was so far away from Rich's manor, but now he could make out golden rooftops and white structures. He could see waterfalls cascading to the land below, Towers of gold with emblems of the sun decorating their highest points.

He smiled wide, encouraged by the beautiful city and eager to see all he could before his possible incineration. There were lingering doubts about if the Princess would really kill him, but Bone figured it would be for the best if he decided to stop and have a look around.

His skeletons were able to keep pace with their master easily as he galloped toward the city's massive front gate, complete with a moat that flowed with water from the rest of the mountain that Canterlot was built on. As he drew closer, he was caught off guard by a large banner that was strewn along the drawbridge.

Welcome Necromancer, Please Don't Kill Us

Bone's enthusiasm immediately plummeted, voiced by a sigh of disappointment. "Really?"

Seeing as the city was still barred to him, Bone shouted towards the gate to announce himself. "Hello? Anypony in there?"

The shaking helmet of a royal guard peeked over the wall, a hoof pointing towards Bone Marrow below as mutterings of panic drifted through the wind.

Bone turned to one of his minions. "This is where we get pelted to death by crossbows, isn't it?"

The skeleton shrugged once again.

A loud clanging sound rang out, followed by the steady metallic progression that accompanied a lowering drawbridge. Bone waited patiently, ensuring his outfit was properly cleaned for a good first impression as Radiance had instructed.

The bridge was lowered, and a metal gate was the next to be raised. Bone carefully approached the entrance to the city with his minions in tow, doing his best to not spook the Royal Guard any more than they already were. A second large doorway was the next to open, one wide enough to walk carriages through. It was then that Bone Marrow was greeted by a familiar face.

"Necromancer," Captain Pure Intent grumbled. "How nice to see you again."

The captain was flanked by close to fifty guards, all unicorns and all very distressed at their assignment. Bone Marrow advanced along with his skeletons to greet Pure Intent, a forced smile on his face.

"Pure Intent! Long time, no see, right?"

Pure's eyes narrowed with annoyance at Bone, "Don't consume anypony while you're here."

Bone raised an eyebrow, "You're not here to lead me by the muzzle everywhere I go?"

Pure shook his head, "Princess Celestia wants to test you somehow, and has told the Royal Guard to allow you free passage throughout the city."

Bone was now highly suspicious of this, his gaze attempting to look past the guards to spot any non-armored ponies walking around.

"Celestia has also decreed that everypony stay indoors," Pure explained, "For fear that you might suddenly go insane and devour half the city."

Bone was about to laugh at the notion when the void inside of him was suddenly made aware of thousands of beating hearts and steady breathing, hidden behind walls throughout the city.

"That's... not the worst idea," Bone conceded.

Pure pointed to the city with his head and stepped to the side. "The city is yours to explore, Necromancer. We'll be keeping an eye on you."

Bone moved through the wall of guards and past Pure Intent, feeling the pressure of a hundred eyes on him and wanting to get away from the threat that the mages presented. At least, Bone assumed that all the unicorns assembled were mages; It wouldn't make sense otherwise.

When he was free from the watchful eye of the Royal Guard, Bone couldn't help himself. The streets were cobblestone and the sidewalks lined with marble. The buildings that ponies hid in were decorated with flowers and welcome mats that had been turned upside down, and there were massive fountains depicting important ponies from ages past in large squares that Bone could only imagine were wonderful when everypony wasn't frightened.

His enthusiasm for Canterlot was dimming quickly as he explored empty street after street, the howling wind making him painfully aware that nopony actually wanted him to be in the city no matter how well dressed he was. Looking to his skeletal guards he wondered what the point of even disguising them had been if everpony was going to hide in the first place.

Looking around for the most fanciful building he could spot, he guessed that the one swarming with pegasus guards would be Celestia's palace and made his way directly there. The city may have been a wonderful place, but not when Bone Marrow was around. Not when homes were boarded shut and heartbeats quickened at his passing.

The steps leading up to the palace were made of gold and trimmed with even more marble, continuing the sunny motif that drenched the city's architecture. Bone recognised that it was all in honor of Princess Celestia, but wondered if any part of it had once been decorated in colors of the night before Princess Luna's betrayal.

At the door to the palace Bone Marrow was confronted by two very muscular guards, accompanied by more than a dozen flying pegasus that seemed eager to drive a sword into him.

"I'm here to see Princess Celestia?" Bone offered to the quiet guards. "I'm Bone Marrow... the Necromancer?"

A guard grunted, "Proof of Necromancy?"

Bone blinked, "Are you joking?"

The two stared at each other for a moment before Bone pulled his cloak's hood down, revealing glowing eyes with blue skulls in the center.

The guard nodded, pushing open the front door. "You are permitted."

Bone's hood quickly moved back onto his head with a bit of magical assistance as he gave a sarcastic 'Thanks' to the guard.

The necromancer had been expecting some kind of long hallway or endless maze of rooms when he entered along with his minions, but what he found was a door leading directly to the throne room. He knew this from the banner that was embroidered with cursive gold announcing 'The Court of the Sun' above the doorframe.

"Well, that was easy."

Bone pushed the door open cautiously, not wanting to catch a solar flare in the face before he had a chance to greet the Princess.

"Come in, Necromancer." A matronly and kind voice called out. "I'm glad you decided to keep your word."

Peeking his head through the door, he was greeted by none other than Princess Celestia herself, adorned in a full set of golden plate armor and accompanied by a menacing battle-axe at the side of her throne.

"Are you going to kill me?" Bone shouted out to the mostly empty throne room, "I'd really like to keep on living!"

The Princess actually chuckled at that. "Please, Bone Marrow. Come in and join me."

Bone looked to his ever shrugging skeleton minion and advanced into the throne room. His guards took positions next to Celestia's own Royal Guard, sharing opposite sides of the door and making the living ponies even more nervous than they had already been.

There was a small glass table set out at the base of the throne, complete with sitting cushions and a waiting tea kettle. Somehow, Bone had been expecting something more sinister when he entered the room, though the display only made his own anxiety leap to new heights as he approached.

Celestia pointed an armored hoof to the seats below, "Please, sit."

Bone questioned the gesture for only a moment before taking a seat, feeling even smaller than he was as his muzzle only barely reached the glass top. Looking at Celestia from the corner of his eye, he noticed that she was already making her way down the steps of her throne. She made no noise, her movements graceful and precise.

"Why does a Princess need to wear armor?" Bone questioned aloud, wanting something to fill the silence. "Aren't you invincible?"

Celestia smiled politely at the question, but did not answer. She floated her battle axe down to the table with her bright magic, resting it on the final cushion as she made herself comfortable.

"I find you interesting, Bone Marrow." The princess eventually stated, completely unfazed by her proximity to the necromancer. "From what I've been told, you've done your very best to save or spare the lives of other ponies. In all of my previous encounters with Necromancers, none have even bothered with something like that. I want to know what sets you apart from the others."

Bone's ears folded downward, "Um... I like other ponies?"

"Why is that, Bone Marrow?" Celestia lifted the nearby kettle with her magic, pouring the both of them a cup of warm tea. "Were you raised that way, or did you conclude that life has value on your own?"

Bone lifted his pocket watch, opening it to produce a picture of his parents. "My mom and dad told me all kinds of stories, all about ponies wanting to do the right thing and help other ponies. They really liked you and Princess Luna, but..."

He noticed that something he had said upset Princess Celestia, as she had turned away at the mentioning of Luna. "Are you alright?"

Celestia turned with wide eyes and high ears, "What did you say?"

Bone's mouth went dry, expecting to be incinerated at any moment now. "I-I asked if you were alright?"

Princess Celestia stared at Bone Marrow for a long time, her eyes narrowing and opening as if she wasn't fully certain that what she had heard was correct.

After what seemed to be a short eternity, Celestia offered a cup of tea to Bone. "What would you say of Princess Luna?"

He accepted the cup, sipping it before realizing that it was far too hot to drink and placed it down on the table, hissing with pain at his burnt mouth. "My parent's always said that they liked you and Luna equally, but... I personally liked Luna more."

Celestia's eyes narrowed, "How so?"

Bone swallowed his anxiety and did his best to explain. "I liked seeing the night sky. How all the stars were just a bit different every night and how they slowly drifted through the sky along with the moon. I liked laying in the street of Scoria, the town I came from before bandits burned it to the ground, and I just watched time go by. I couldn't do that with the daytime sky. The sun's too bright to look at..."

Celestia's expression softened as she took a sip of her own tea, unaffected by the temperature. "Go on."

"Luna always seemed to be more relateable, I guess. In the stories she had her ups and downs, her own moments of doubt and triumphs that made me smile. In your own stories you always seemed... perfect. Nothing would get to you, and you were like a statue that never changed."

Bone stopped, worried that he had said too much and that it would get him in trouble.

"What do you think of Nightmare Moon?" Celestia calmly asked, her eyes staring straight through Bone. "I hear you've invented some kind of party for her?"

He shook his head immediately, "It isn't like that! I don't know anything about Nightmare Moon; I didn't even know she existed until a few weeks ago. My friend and I were asked to deal with some bandits that had been plaguing the town of Galloping Glades, and-"

"Your friend? Somepony asked you for help?" Celestia interrupted.

"Y-yes, Scenic Sight is my friend, and the only guard of Galloping Glades needed help to get rid of the bandits. I had been in the town for a few hours before he came for me, offering a can of meat from the pet store."

Celestia quietly chuckled, "A necromancer surviving off of dog's food. I haven't heard that before."

Bone shrugged, "It wasn't that bad, really."

"So what of this Nightmare Night that I hear so much about, whispered quietly behind my back when nobles think I don't hear them?" Celestia pressed,.

"Well... I raised an army from the town's crypt in order to chase away the bandits but we didn't know how to get them past the town without everypony freaking out. So... Scenic sort of invented a holiday for the occasion, saying that everypony should dress up as something that should scare them because of Nightmare Moon being scary. So... other foals used it as an excuse to get candies, and she made it up that a bit of the candy went to Nightmare Moon so she wouldn't eat anypony else and take the candy instead. It worked, but when I came back to the town it was already under attack by bandits..."

Celestia nodded, "And that is when you saved what ponies you could from Galloping Glades, correct?"

Bone turned his forehoof from side to side, "With a few messy details missing, yeah."

The Princess set her cup of tea down on the table, taking in a relaxed breath. "I still have questions for you Bone Marrow, but from what I've seen so far you might just be the most tolerable necromancer I've encountered."

"Um..." Bone hesitated, "Thank you?"

"While you are here in Canterlot, at my insistence, you will stay in one of the palace's guest rooms. I don't want to see you sneaking off into the night. If you attempt to leave, I will destroy you. Are we understood?"

Bone nodded, attempting to place the glass table between himself and Celestia. "Y-yes! Understood, Princess Celestia!"

Celestia rose from the table with a smirk, "I've also never seen a Necromancer that was afraid of me. You're full of surprises, aren't you?"

Bone chose to remain silent as the Princess gracefully left the room, a final wink in his direction sending shivers down his spine.

"I'm so very, very dead..."

A nervous guard had drawn the short stick and been forced to lead Bone Marrow to his room, shaking with fear the entire way. Bone and his minions followed close behind, afraid that Celestia might leap out from a corner and blast them with the sun if he set a single hoof out of line.

"H-heres your R-room, N-necromancer!"

The guard threw the key at Bone Marrow, extending his wings to fly as far away from the colt as he could. Bone looked from the pony to the key on the ground, picking it up with his magic and sighing.

"I can't wait for a day when ponies aren't scared to death of me," Bone grumbled. He then looked to a nearby skeleton, re-evaluating what he had just said. "I guess, In a way, I am death, aren't I?"

The skeleton had no reply.

Opening the gilded double-doors with a shove, Bone was greeted by an obnoxiously bright room. Apparently, Celestia had chosen the one room in all of the palace that was directly faced towards the sun. Shielding his eyes with a well dressed limb, Bone advanced towards the curtains and drew them shut, bathing the room in darkness.

"Much better," Bone sighed with relief. "Would you mind closing the doors?"

His minions obliged with two of them exiting to guard the hallway while the other four stayed with their master in the room.

"Let's see if there's anything cool in here."

Glowing blue eyes searched the room for anything that didn't immediately scream wealth and power, finding little. The tea cups were gold, the plates were silver, the dresser drawer was made from some kind of florescent wood that Bone had never even heard of before and the sheets of his bed felt like he could only imagine clouds would.

That thought gave him a pang of sorrow, realizing that he should've asked Scenic what clouds where like before he left. Leaping onto the bed and noticing that he slowly sank into the mattress, Bone opened his pocket watch and thought of his friend. She was soaring through the clouds, chasing after birds with a wide smile on her face, happy to be up in the skies after so many days of walking. She always seemed happier when she flew, Bone noticed. He hoped that she would find someplace that made her happy, along with somepony she felt safe with.

A quick tapping came to Bone's ears as he looked up. He checked the sight of his skeletal guards outside and found nopony.

"What the hay?" Bone whispered.

A second grouping of taps sounded, coming from the balcony.

"Oh please, don't tell me that's who I think it is..."

Bone pulled the curtains open, once again blinding himself with Celestia's sun. He saw something moving outside of the window and smiled when he recognized who it was. That didn't make him any less alarmed however.

"Scenic!? What are you doing here?"

"Let me in! Hurry!" She shouted, pointing with her hoof at the balcony door's handle. "They might see me!"

Bone shook his head and opened the door from across the room with his magic. "Get in!"

Scenic rushed forward, slamming the entrance behind her before sliding the curtains closed. Turning around, she noticed that the room was entirely dark aside from Bone's glowing eyes and she couldn't make out his expression.

"Are you mad?" She asked with a nervous grin.

The eyes moved from the bed towards her, the reflected glow revealing an equally smiling Bone.

"Yes, and no at the same time. How did you find me?"

Scenic gestured to the skeletons. "It's kind of hard to miss them, isn't it? There's nopony else in this entire city walking around and the guards patrolling the skies assumed I was a panicked filly looking for their house. Good thing none of them spotted me coming here, right?"

Bone was a bit suspicious of that. "But when I came here, the guards were swarming all over the palace. How would they have not noticed you?"

A knock came to the room's front door causing both of them to yelp in surprise. Bone checked the door and saw a very tall and none too pleased looking Princess waiting on the other side.

"Oh no, hide, quick!"

Scenic scurried underneath the bed, doing her best to remain out of sight as she covered her mouth with her hooves.

Bone readied himself, opening the door with a forced smile. "Princess Celestia! What a--"

"Where is she?" Celestia demanded, barging her way into the room and lighting it brightly with her horn. "A filly tried to sneak into my palace and went straight to your room."

Bone did his best to maintain an innocent expression. "What do you mean? I haven't heard anypony else since I got here. Aren't they all hiding away from me?"

Celestia turned, her eyes bright as the sun itself. "Do not play games with me, Necromancer. Where is she?"

Bone shrinked to the floor in fear, "Sh-she's my friend!"

Her expression softened, the room growing dimmer. "You weren't lying, then?"

Bone was confused, removing his hooves from his face. "You thought I was making it up?"

She scoffed. "Come now, a Necromancer with a friend? Where is she, I have to see this for myself."

Scenic's bright blue hoof poked out from underneath the bed. "I-I'm here, Princess Celestia."

Celestia's eyes closed as she sighed, "I scared you, didn't I?"

Scenic's slowly pulled herself from the ground, brushing dust from her belly. "Yeah... you're really scary up close." She covered her mouth quickly, eyes wide. "I shouldn't have said that out loud!"

"Come with me," Celestia suggested with an armored hoof, "I want to hear the full story between you two, and how you chose to befriend a necromancer, young filly."

Scenic glanced nervously at Bone, "Are we in trouble?"

Celestia provided no response, walking from the room with the expectation that the two would follow.

"I think that's a yes..."

Test of Character

View Online

Bone decided that it would be pointless to have his skeletons walk with him everywhere, not knowing if he would be staying in a single room for long. The two foals shared nervous glances as the Princess lead them past the throne room and through a new doorway protected by Royal Guard. The guards were obviously nervous from the fact that their armor was rattling from their shivering bodies.

"Is everypony going to be afraid of me all the time," Bone questioned, "I don't really want to be here if nopony wants me around. I could just go into the forest or something if that's easier."

Celestia hummed in thought as a reply, nodding to the guards and permitting them to leave their posts.

"Through this doorway is a test," the solar princess explained, "Three other Necromancers have been subjected to it, but you are the first to have a choice."

The young necromancer's brow furrowed, "What kind of test? Is it painful?"

She shook her head. "Not typically. I want to see how the Elements of Harmony react to you; to see if my fears are valid beyond a doubt."

"That doesn't sound good..."

The doors were pulled open by a bright yellow glow from Celestia's horn, revealing a large room with a pedestal at the far end holding six gemstones. White, Yellow, Purple, Orange, Blue and Pink.

Celestia pointed to each of the gemstones as the group approached, "Each of these elements; Generosity, Kindness, Magic, Honesty, Loyalty and Laughter will reveal parts of your personality. How you resonate with them will determine your fate."

Bone was becoming increasingly worried, "And If I don't 'resonate' with any of them?"

The sunny princess paused for a moment and turned to face Bone Marrow, her expression serious. "Then you will die."

"What!?" Scenic immediately shouted, "What is wrong with you! You're supposed to be kind and... and nice!"

Celestia's scornful gaze immediately silenced the pegasus, "I have far more to concern myself with than the life of a single necromancer. I hope for a time where violence and war are a distant memory, where skeletons remain in their graves and ponies are free to go where they please without bandits killing them for bits and leaving their bodies to rot in the grass. I will not rest until my ponies are safe from all threats, be it from bandits or my ponies themselves."

She pointed an armored hoof to the pedestal. "Approach, Necromancer."

Bone was glad he was wearing a hood that he could hide behind as his ears folded down. He cautiously approached, wondering what would happen to Scenic if none of the gems 'resonated', whatever that meant.

A few hoof-steps away, Bone turned. "What do I do; just touch them or..."

Celestia nodded, "Hold out your hoof towards the purple gem. The gems will glow if there is anything redeemable about you within."

The young necromancer did as instructed, now wishing he had brought his skeletons with him just for the sake of giving the armored princess something else to strike before him if something went wrong.

He waited, his hoof lingering inches away from the purple gem of magic. Nothing was happening and Bone Marrow clenched his jaw.

Then, just as Celestia was about to announce her findings and sentence Bone Marrow to an unpleasant end, the Element of Magic glowed brightly, followed by the Elements of Laughter, Loyalty and Generosity.

"Well... It seems I was wrong about you, Bone Marrow. You may lower your hoof."

The well dressed colt quickly snapped his hoof to his chest, worried that the gems might burn it off if he stayed too long. "That was it? Did I do well?"

Celestia shook her head, "That was simply a test. You're nowhere near the end of your stay here in Canterlot. Of the other three necromancers that have lived, none of them reacted to a single Element. You, however, reacted to four of them."

"W-what does that mean?" Bone stammered, still unsure if he was going to be incinerated in the next few moments.

"It tells me what to expect from you. Honesty and Kindness are not something the Elements would attribute to you, Necromancer. However, Magic and Laughter were the first to respond, followed by Loyalty and Generosity." Celestia pointed towards the room's entrance, "I have more questions for you, Bone Marrow. I need them answered."

Scenic and Bone found themselves in a large hall seated in chairs far too large for their small bodies. The princess had left the two under the timid eye of the Royal Guard and had gone off somewhere to 'gather opinions'.

"Do you think she's still going to kill me?"

Scenic shook her head, "Celestia hasn't done it so far, so maybe not? I'm not really sure what all the gem stuff was about, but it seemed important enough to decide what she should do."

Bone rested his head on a hoof, leaning into the table. "What if she's gathering a whole bunch of mages and they'll just cast some spell on me that takes away my special talent? Is that possible?"

"I wouldn't put it past her," the filly replied, "She does control the sun and the moon now."

He was curious now, "Do you think that gets really tiring? Maybe she's cranky because she can't sleep?"

Scenic shrugged. "Maybe? I can't really imagine what it would be like to never sleep and raise the sun and moon every day. Wouldn't you lose track of what time it was? It would be like the longest day ever because you never slept."

The two friends considered the implications for a moment before their minds wandered to other topics.

"Do you think she always eats with gold plates and spoons?" Scenic was holding a spoon in her mouth that was was reflective enough to mirror her face. "Like, who would even use a spoon when you can just slurp soup? It's a whole other step!"

It was Bone's turn to shrug now. "I dunno, maybe she thinks it's fancy?"

The filly dropped the spoon onto her shining golden plate. "Wait, do you think she went to the kitchen for opinions?"

That caught Bone off guard. "The kitchen? What, is she going to serve dinner or something? A moment ago she was going to kill me, and now you think she went to get us food?"

She scratched her chin in thought, "Maybe she's never had a necromancer stay in the guest room before? She said the other three were killed because they didn't react to the fancy gem things, so maybe this is like a dinner-date?"

"Eh..." Bone muttered uncomfortably, "Are you sure that's the phrase you want to use?"

Scenic scoffed, "You know what I mean, Bone. She's probably trying to get to know you!"

Everypony in the room, guards included, jumped with surprise when the doors opened next. The solar monarch had returned with a vast assembly of very fancy looking ponies, all dressed in suits or gowns that screamed excess wealth at the loudest metaphorical volume possible.

A few stopped in their tracks when they noticed the two young foals joined at the table as others took their seats as a matter of habit, muttering to each other about procedure and inconvenience.

"Um..." Bone blurted while looking to his friend, "What the hay?"

A noble mare seated next to the young colt shook a hoof at him. "It's impolite for a pony your age to swear. You should... know..."

Her eyes went wide as she realized who she was now scolding, pulling away in her chair to gain as much distance between the now recognized necromancer and herself.

"N-n-necro m-mancer!" The mare stammered loudly, pointing a hoof at Bone in horror. Loud gasps sounded from the other nobles attending as they scooted away in their seats.

Bone rested his head on the table and let out an exaggerated sigh of annoyance. "Can somepony please not freak out the moment they recognize me for once?"

Scenic giggled, patting her friend on his hooded head.

"Everypony," Celestia called to the room loudly, "Calm yourselves."

"B-but Princess!" A noble meekly protested before being silenced by the solar princess' stern gaze.

"This colt is none other than the Necromancer known as Bone Marrow," she continued calmly, pointing a hoof to Bone. "And he has passed the test of the Elements."

A general rabble of disbelief quickly rose among the gathered nobles of Canterlot before dying down to allow Celestia to continue.

"I have gathered you here to determine what should be done with him."

Bone shrunk in his chair, pulling his hood over his face. Come on!

"Kill him!" a noble blurted out before being smacked across the muzzle.

"Shut up you idiot, you're going to get us all killed! The necromancer is right there!"

Bone raised his hoof, "Do I have a say in this?"

The collective group of the wealthy were about to declare a definitive 'no' in response, but caught their tongues when their brains decided that staying alive was more important than their own opinions. The necromancer was entirely capable of killing the entire room, excepting the Princess, in a single moment.

"G-go ahead, Sir Necromancer."

The colt lifted his hood to reveal his face and glowing skull eyes, earning gasps from the already frightened nobility. "Can I just ask something to everypony here?"

Celestia nodded.

"Why don't all of you just leave me alone?" Bone stood on his chair in order to place his hooves on the silver table. "Can't you just not hunt me every day of my life? I don't want to hurt anypony; I never have."

A fairly brave noble spoke up to counter Bone's argument,"But what of Scoria and Galloping Glades? Were you not responsible for their destruction?"

The young necromancer shook his head. "I was there to see both towns get destroyed, but I wasn't the pony that did it. I came from Scoria, it was my home. Why would I want to burn it to the ground? Why would I kill everypony that ever cared about me as soon as I got my cutie mark?"

"Just how old are you, necromancer?" Celestia finally asked, her interest taking a new line of thought.

Bone paused for a moment to look at the ceiling in thought. "Uh... I got lost in the mines of Scoria for a long time, and then there were the three times I died..."


The colt waved the outburst away, "It's no big deal, death happens sometimes."

He continued to think, guessing how many days would have passed between his resurrections and his time wandering through the forest as well as the time spent in the mines.

"Well, I was the last pony in my town to get my cutie mark, so... maybe twelve years old?"

The room went silent with more than a few jaws dropping, including Princess Celestia's.

"You're twelve!?" The princess shouted in disbelief before covering her mouth, apologizing to the gathered nobles for the breach of etiquette.

Bone shrugged. "I guess? I haven't really had the time to consider how long it's been. I feel like I've been hunted my whole life, but just a few months ago I was eating garlic bread with my dad outside of Scoria's town bakery."

"So you were killed immediately after discovering your special talent was... was necromancy?"

He nodded at the questioning noble, "Yeah. I only found it out because I didn't want to touch a dead raven. It stole my dad's pocket watch and then ran into a building or something while I chased it. Next thing I knew after trying to pick up the watch with my magic was a skeletal bird staring back at me."

Princess Celestia was curious, "How was your town destroyed, then?"

Bone sniffed at the memory, "A bunch of really big things that called themselves Diamond Dogs fought griffons and other ponies for control of my town, and then they forced everypony to work in the mines to get gems for them. On the day I found out I was a necromancer, everypony went missing. I went looking for them with an army of skeletons I gathered from the other dead bandits that were laying in the street and found them all..." He paused, the memory suddenly becoming painful to recite. "They were all dead in a big pit."

The Princess and Nobles now looked between each other with guilty sympathy for having thought Bone was responsible for the destruction of Scoria.

"After I found them, the Royal Guard came for me. I guess they saw the smoke and went to find out what was wrong," Bone continued, emotionally detaching himself from the recollection as his face went blank. "They saw that I was a necromancer, and killed me on the spot."

A noble-mare cringed at that, "Idiots."

"What of Galloping Glades?" Celestia pressed.

"I can tell you about that one," Scenic interjected. "If Bone hadn't been there to save us, then everypony there would've been killed by bandits." She pointed to her friend with a smile, "My friend searched through the entire town for us while his skeletons went around killing bandits. He made three of them die on the spot when they were about to stab us with swords!"

Bone was grinning awkwardly, "Scenic? I'm not sure you're helping my case..."

Celestia's head tilted, "How would you describe the events, Bone Marrow?"

The necromancer scratched his muzzle, "Well, I was out in the forest looking for bandits when I learned they were going to raid my friend's town," He pointed to Scenic and continued, "I was worried for her and her mother and I searched through her burning house to find her. After most of my flesh burned off from the fire I fell down the steps leading outside and ran into a Bandit. He was going to kill me, so... I consumed him."

Nobles flinched at the word 'consume', their hearts skipping a beat.

"I did a lot worse to any other bandits I found. I was really angry; this was the second town that I was losing to bandits, the second town where everypony I knew was dying all around me and I couldn't do anything to bring back the ponies that were already dead. I didn't want to lose my only friend on top of all of that, too."

The princess pointed to Scenic, "And she is the friend you refer to, correct?"

Bone nodded, "I found Scenic in the town's crypt with her mother and the town's only guard cornered by three bandits... and I crushed the bandit's insides until they died."

"I can see why the Element of Kindness didn't resonate for you, then." Celestia mused, "Please, continue."

The colt scratched his head, "Well, after that we were lead by Obscenely Rich to his manor in the Everfree Forest--"

"Obscenely Rich?" A noble scoffed, "What was he doing there?"

Bone's eyes flicked to the side for a moment, "Um... he saw the fire and came to help everypony?"

Celestia was unimpressed. "And that would be the Element of Honesty making its retreat."

The necromancer tapped his hoof on the silver table, "I just don't want anypony else getting in trouble because of me, okay? Promise you won't do anything bad to Rich?"

The solar princess nodded, her interest taking hold.

"I saw him in the forest in his fancy golden armor antagonizing bandits," Bone reluctantly explained, "I thought he was their leader, but he just turned out to be having fun annoying criminals in the woods. I was in the middle of bringing the whole camp and Rich back to the town when one of the bandits mentioned the town was being raided and I saw smoke coming from the distance."

Bone took a breath, "When I saw him next, my skeletons had him pressed into the ground because his armor wouldn't let them harm him without paying him money in return. He said he was gathering the survivors of the town, and offered a place to stay at his manor for me sparing his life both in the forest and in the town."

Celestia was still curious, as were the rest of the noblity. "What of Pure Intent's report of having your eyes cut out?"

A few hadn't been expecting that question, soon covering their mouths with hoofkerchiefs.

"Rich wanted to send a message to his manor in advance that he was bringing ponies to stay for a while," Bone explained, leaning back down into his chair for a more comfortable story-telling experience. "I offered to send my skeletal bird, that I call Toothpick, to deliver the message. That was when Pure Intent was searching the manor for necromancers and intercepted the message."

The princess smirked for only a moment at the mentioning of Toothpick's name before nodding.

"I was worried that everypony was going to go to prison or get killed because of me and I knew It wouldn't be long before I died again if I went into the forest on my own, so Rich called in a pony that was good with illusions to disguise me."

A noble in the room coughed suspiciously at that, shifty eyes flickering between Scenic and Bone.

"She found out that her magic wouldn't work with the skulls in my eyes," Bone emphasized this by pulling down on his right eyelid, "So... she said that they needed to be cut out."

"You still have your eyes, though." A noble pointed out.

Bone blinked, "I got better."

"This is a very interesting story Necromancer," A mustachioed noble pointed out, "But how do we know you're not lying?"

Scenic raised her hoof, "I think if Bone was the bad kind of necromancer, everypony would be dead by now."

The mustached noble then scrunched his nose, "Ah. That is... most correct."

"I just want to be left alone, in peace," Bone explained, "I want to be able to live life without hurting anypony. Do I think having an army of skeletons is super cool? Of course. Would I use that army to go hurt other ponies? Not unless they came to me looking for trouble like the Knights of the Sun or the Bright Moon do."

A noble decorated with various medals was next to question the young necromancer, "What of Equestria, Bone Marrow? What would you do if the land were to come under siege by rebels or foreign powers?"

Bone squinted, "What are you talking about?"

"Well," The noble continued, "You mentioned the Bright Moon. Would you assist Equestria in ridding itself of these rebels?"

He was suspicious now, sensing that the ponies were thinking up ways to use him, just like the Bright Moon had tried to do. "I'm not going to be a weapon for you, if that's what you mean."

"But think of all the lives you'd save, being such a generous necromancer!" The pony pressed, ignoring the warnings of his nearby colleagues. "With a skeletal army under your command, none loyal to Equestria's true ruler would be harmed! No royal guard would lose their lives, no towns would be pillaged for supplies!"

The room was beginning to grow colder as Bone Marrow became more annoyed. The necromancer's breath was becoming visible as his contempt for the pony grew.

"You could be the savior of Equestria, a great hero that united the land against the agents of Nightmare Moon instead of a monster, hunted for the rest of your days!"

Bone could feel the void growing inside of him as the pony continued onward. Glass began to frost; heartbeats quickened. The void was almost begging for the death of the noble. A simple word, and the pony would be gone...

"There would be statues of you, Necromancer. The first necromancer to aid their fellow ponies rather than kill them! Think of all the glory!"

"Everypony," Celestia announced after noticing the growing threat, "We are done for today. Thank you all for attending; I will summon you again should I need your council."

Bone stared daggers at the decorated noble, watching his hasty retreat from the room ahead of the others as Celestia marshaled the group away.

"Hey," Scenic whispered, holding her friend's hoof, "Don't worry, alright? You're still alive, and I think that this all went pretty well, considering everything that happened."

The cold eyes shifted to Scenic, sending a chill down her spine. "I'm not a monster, am I?"

Second Guessing

View Online

The room had slowly returned to normal after several minutes. Bone remained in the same seat, running over what had happened in his mind while Scenic tried her best to calm him down.

Mutterings came from the room that Celestia and her nobles had exited to, sometimes raising when somepony shouted or gasped. The young colt had no idea what the elite of Canterlot were talking about, but he assumed it had something to do with his continued ability to live. He doubted they would leave him in peace after the decorated noble brought up his use as a weapon against enemies of Equestria, but Bone still wanted no part in it. He wanted to be left alone, to live as normal a life as he could with his special talent. He didn't want ponies to hunt him for centuries like the other Necromancers, but what would keep ponies away from him?

Bone looked to his concerned friend, wondering if he really wanted to be alone for the rest of his life. Did he want to hide away somewhere, hoping every day that nopony would find him? If a bounty hunter found him, he would have to kill them and move to some other place and hope for the same thing. What kind of life would that be?

The void inside of him brought the noble's request up to the front of the necromancer's thoughts. The noble had said he would be a hero. Would that mean nopony would want to kill him anymore, or would he be facing a different kind of threat entirely? Heroes in their stories were always fighting monsters, doing what they could to hold back the horrors that would destroy nice ponies.

He sighed. If he was going to be a hero, ponies would see him as a monster more than a friend no matter what he did. He was a Necromancer, no matter which side he chose. Raising the dead, killing ponies and causing misery was his special talent.

"Bone?" Scenic gently asked, "Are you alright?"

He shook his head, looking up to his only friend. "I'm not."

"What's wrong?"

The colt rested his head on the silver table, moving a plate away with his magic. "What's the point of a cutie-mark if all it does is get you killed over and over again?"

She looked towards the gilded door for a second with worry, "Bone, I don't think it's going to be that bad. Maybe they'll decide they like you?"

Bone nearly stared straight through Scenic, "What about the other necromancers? How much did ponies like them for the centuries they were chased and killed?" He shook his head, "No, they're in that room deciding what the best way to kill me is."

Scenic checked the room, noting the few guards that lingered. "Hey," She whispered, "What if we went outside and explored Canterlot together?"

His ears perked up a bit, "Aren't we supposed to stay here?"

The filly's hoof wavered, "Eh, nopony said we had to, did they? Besides, what are the guards going to do; stop us?"

The young necromancer smiled, his head lifting from the table. "Alright, that sounds a lot better than sitting around here waiting for my doom."

The two jumped from their chairs onto the polished marble tile of the floor, making their way to the exit opposite the conversing nobles. Bone smiled from behind his hood, the white muzzle reminding the guards of death itself paying them a visit and soon parted ways, unbarring the door.

"Where should we go first?"

"I dunno, I've never been to Canterlot before."

The two friends traveled down the golden steps of the palace into the city proper, ponies now having been given permission by Princess Celestia to resume their normal activities. Bone was having doubts about their plan now, given that hiding his eyes wasn't easy.

"What's a donut?" Scenic asked, pointing to a nearby storefront.

"Pony Joe's?" Bone added with equal interest. "Should we see how it goes?"

"Do you think that's their actual name?"

"Who, the store owner?"

Scenic shrugged, "There could be worse names for a pony. Though, being named Pony Joe would be kind of lame."

"Isn't Joe some kind of... drink? I think i've heard of a 'cup of Joe'."

They decided that exploring the oddity would be better than standing at the base of the stairs simply talking about it and walked across the city square's fountain. It depicted an all too familiar Princess Celestia in her golden armor battling some kind of monster from history's past.

"Hey Bone, what do you think that thing is?" Scenic asked, pointing to the statue.

The necromancer looked up, noting Celestia. "Probably her killing something for being 'evil'."

"What if it really was evil?"

He shook his head, "I really don't want to talk about Celestia, Scenic. Let's just enjoy Canterlot while I still can, alright?"

The pegasus nodded, "Okay Bone, sorry for bringing it up so soon."

A small bell chimed as the door to Pony Joe's opened, swinging inward with the push of the friends' combined hooves.

"Welcome!" A cheerful voice greeted the door before finding nopony standing there. Confused, he looked down and spotted two new customers. "What'll it be?"

Bone was about to reply, but decided against it. How long would it be before somepony screamed Necromancer?

"What's the best thing?" Scenic asked, "We're new to Canterlot."

The coffee colored stallion grinned, pointing to a large menu above him that ran along the wall. "Take your pick, plenty to choose from. You two want a stool or a booth?"

Bone slowly mouthed confusion, staring at all the different items. Double Fudge Sundae, Triple Macchiato Espresso Supreme, Banana Split, Double Banana Strawberry Twist... the list went on and on, and the young colt had never even come across half the words before.

"Uh," Scenic replied for the both of them, "A booth?"

The stallion pointed to the nearby window seats, "Right over there. Miss Sundae will be along with a menu to help you both out. Enjoy your visit to Canterlot!"

"Uh, thanks..." Bone mentioned idly, half aware of what he even said. He blinked, clearing the mystical words in front of him from his mind before following Scenic to their 'booth'.

The seats were bouncy, well maintained and comfortable as well. The foals' heads barely came over the tabletop, but they could see each other just fine. The window outside showed passing ponies and carriages going on with their day as if nothing was wrong, though more than a few gave a worried glance towards the palace.

They probably think I'm still inside, Bone realized.

"Hey there!" A cheerful mare announced, placing two large pieces of parchment in front of each foal, "First time in Pony Joe's?"

Bone nodded, not wanting to speak much.

Scenic returned the polite cheerful tone, "Yeah, we saw the name and didn't know what to think, so we stopped by!"

"Do you want me to get your cloak, dear?" The waitress offered.

The necromancer shook his head quickly, "No thanks, I'm alright."

"Aw," she tutted, "A bit shy? That's okay dear, you're safe here in Pony Joe's. Can I get you two anything to drink while you pick something from the menu?"

"Um... I'll have water?"

The waitress looked to Bone, who was now using his parchment as a shield against the waitress's gaze. "Water for me, too."

She nodded, "I'll be right back, Let me know when you're ready to order!"

Quickly walking off to help other ponies that had wandered in, Bone breathed a sigh of relief as the waitress left. His menu fell flat on the table.

"This was a bad idea," Bone nervously whispered, "If anypony notices who I am, everypony is going to scream and run out of the door!"

"Bone, you have to relax a little. Nopony thinks you're out and about. You probably just seem shy, like the waitress said."

He took a deep breath, closing his eyes and covering his head with the menu. "This is a terrible, horrible, impossibly bad idea!"

Hoofsteps came closer as the waitress returned, hovering two glasses of water over to each of the seated foals. "And here's your waters... did you find anything you like?" She looked nervously over at the hooded foal, worried that something was wrong. "Are you alright, dear?"

"I'm fine," Bone squeaked out, shielding himself further from her sight. "I'll take whatever you think is best."

The waitress patted the colt on his head, "Poor dear, I hope your stay in Canterlot isn't horrible the entire time you're here." She looked over to Scenic, her customer service smile returning, "What'll it be for you?"

Scenic had no idea what she was looking at either, bewilderment apparent on her face. "Uh... whatever's good?"

She tapped Bone on his shoulder, "Would you mind if I took the menus, dear?"

The waitress was reminding Bone all to much of Scenic's mother, the image of a crossbow bolt through her brain flashing in his mind. He started to shake.

"Oh... I suppose you can hold onto it for now. I'll be back!"

She walked off once more, though it did little to calm the young necromancer. He saw himself again in the forest, pulling a bolt from his heart one agonizing tug at a time. He felt a sword go through his face, his spine splitting in two and gritted his teeth. He felt his ribs cracking, his heart shredding as he lay on the ground coughing blood onto the leaves beneath him.

"Bone?" Scenic asked, "Do you want to leave?"

Her necromancer friend looked up, his eyes distant and glazed over with an icy frost. "How am I supposed to live a normal life, Scenic? Look at me! Look at this place; I don't belong here, anypony can see that."

"What are you talking about, Bone? Of course you belong!" Scenic replied, moving from her seat around the table to sit next to her friend. "What's wrong?"

Bone held Scenic in his hooves, trembling. "I shouldn't be alive, Scenic. Your mother should still be alive! I can still see her in my mind, I can see my own deaths flashing in front of me!"

Scenic's ears folded as her friend became more distraught, "We should go someplace else, okay? You need to calm down, or you'll give yourself away."

He pulled her close into an icy hug as the waitress approached. She broke into a smile. "Aw, so that's why you're so shy! You two must be on a date; that's adorable!"

"Eheh..." Scenic blurted, "Yeah! A date..."

Two large and ornately decorated bowls were placed on the table, each carrying some kind of dessert looking treat.

"Two Banana Splits on the house for your first visit to Canterlot!" The waitress cheerfully explained. "Can I get you two anything else while I'm here?"

Scenic shook her head, "No thanks, ma'am, we're good for now."

"If you need anything else," the waitress replied in a sing-song voice, "Let me know-w!"

The filly did her best to turn Bone's head towards the newly arrived food. "Hey, look at this stuff for a moment, okay?"

Bone's shaking lessened for a moment, his mind now distracted in a vain attempt to comprehend what he was even looking at.

Scenic picked up a spoon in her mouth, "Wanna try it?"

The necromancer looked around the room, noticing that nopony else had paid them any attention. He gave a pained sigh, picking up a spoon of his own with his magic and guided it unsteadily towards whatever a 'Banana Split' was. His spoon carved through the treat easily enough and Bone looked at what now sat upon his spoon like some kind of odd growth.

He looked over to his friend, noting that she was already working on her second bite, and decided to give it a try. It was cold, but delicious at the same time. His eyes widened and a smirk dawned on his face, his worries fading to the back of his mind for the moment.

When Bone Marrow had calmed down and began to relax, both friends enjoyed their treat at Pony Joe's without a single scream of terror.

Bone and Scenic both nursed slightly bulging bellies, flopped over on each side of the booth's couch.

"I think it's poison," Bone grumbled, "I think I'm gonna die again..."

Scenic rolled onto her back, using the original backrest as a cushion for the side of her face. "I think we ate too much."

"Is that a thing?" Bone asked, "I didn't know you could eat too much food..."

The door's bell chimed lightly as a newcomer entered the diner. A quiet round of gasps sounded out and caused Bone to worry.

"Princess Celestia!" the stallion behind the counter gasped, "To what do I owe the honor of your company?"

The necromancer's eyes shot wide and he curled into a painful ball underneath the table, hoping that his cloak would make him harder to spot if he closed his eyes.

"Have you seen a small colt and filly recently? One of them wears a finely crafted outfit of blue and white, as well as a cloak?"

"Yes, your highness!" The stallion eagerly offered, pointing directly to Bone's booth, "They should be right over there."

Celestia nodded politely, "Thank you, Pony Joe. Your family has always been a great help."

He nodded, "We Joe's gotta help everypony, ya know?"

The tall princess walked over to the booth that Bone hid underneath, her horn lighting brightly. The glow shifted from one side to the other as she hummed, soon looking underneath.

"Ah, there you are."

Bone and Scenic were pulled away from their hiding spot and held in Celestia's magic, midair. "Enjoying your escape?"

Bone shrank in the light, covering his eyes to avoid anypony seeing them now that he was the center of attention.

"I just wanted Bone-- Eh, Berry to feel better!" Scenic blurted, narrowly avoiding announcing her friend's name to the public.

Celestia raised an eyebrow, "You're both coming back to the Palace."

"Why don't you leave us alone!?" Scenic shouted, her temper flaring as she dangled in the air. "Can't you see what you're doing to him? He was happy just a moment ago, and you came in and ruined it!"

The princess was surprised at the outburst, looking to her nearby subjects with a mask of calm, "Not now."

"I've never seen my friend this happy the entire time I've known him," Scenic continued, "Just leave him alone!"

Celestia pulled the filly close to her muzzle. "We're going to have a talk, Scenic. Alone."

Bone was now back at the palace in his chambers. His skeletons remained unharmed, acting as his guards though he felt no comfort from their presence. The silken bed sheets had been pulled away as Bone hid underneath the bed, wrapped in a cocoon of safety.

His mind raced with terrible possibilities; of all the things that Celestia could be doing to his friend. She would never leave him alone, Celestia would always hunt him, always kill him until he was thrown into a volcano and gone for good. Bone was growing more certain of it with each passing second.

A knock came at the door and Bone switched to a skeleton's view to see who it was. It was Celestia, of course. His anger bristled, the room growing cold.

The princess entered, noting the chill with caution. "Bone Marrow?" She called into the room. "I know you're in here."

The young necromancer remained silent. She would get no reply from him.

"I was wrong about you," the princess added with a tinge of guilt in her voice. "Will you speak with me?"

Bone possessed one of his skeletons, having them shake their head and point towards the hallway in a gesture for her to leave.

"Can I tell you something?"

This wasn't the same Celestia that had been trying to find a reason to kill him earlier that day, Bone noticed. Something was off. He lowered the hoof of his skeleton, using it as a proxy between them.

"I saw something that I haven't seen in my entire life today," Celestia continued, "I saw a necromancer with a friend. I saw you and your friend Scenic enjoying time together and it reminded me of somepony close to my heart."

The room grew even colder, Bone assuming that Celestia was trying to manipulate him.

"I didn't pay attention to the signs. I didn't realize that she was upset, that she needed my help, like your friend did."

Celestia sighed, moving closer to the center of the room. "She told me, in her own little ways. How the night would grow a little bit darker; how she spoke to me in passing. Small, tiny things that I was too careless to notice."

The young necromancer was still wary of Celestia's intentions, but the room warmed as he listened.

"It's the tiny things that get a pony in the end, I realize. It's not the sudden outburst that's the problem, it's not just one event that causes a pony to give in to madness..."

She looked underneath the bed, directly into Bone's glowing blue eyes as he pulled away. "It's the day to day that drives a pony insane. I saw that when you left the palace today. I witnessed your struggle and was reminded of my sister, Luna. She was the same way, but she never showed it. She kept it bottled up, hidden away from me."

Celestia shook her head, sighing. "No, it wasn't hidden. I simply didn't care to notice."

"Why are you telling me this?" Bone questioned.

The princess of the sun shared a moment with the young necromancer, their eyes locked on each other.

"I made a mistake when I banished my sister; when I banished Nightmare Moon. I couldn't see her pain and I used the Elements of Harmony against her when they had been trying to teach me a lesson."

Bone returned a look of confusion, prompting Celestia to continue.

"My sister was always the better of us; she was Kind, she was Generous... she was far more forgiving than I was."

The princess offered a hoof to Bone, sliding it along the rug towards him. "I'd like to be a better sister to her, but I need to know something first..."

The frost of the room returned as Bone suspected this would be the moment that Celestia had been building up to, to use him for some purpose.

"Can you see if she is still alive? Can you look through Luna's eyes and tell me she's alright?"

He blinked, completely taken by surprise by the request. "You want me to..."

Celestia nodded. "Would you do me this kindness?"

Memories of being killed by the Royal Guard and of his eyes being cut out to avoid Celestia's knights came to mind and Bone clenched his jaw shut, the room becoming arctic.

"Why should I?" Bone seethed, "Why would you come here, asking me for a favor when all you've done is make my life miserable?"

Celestia pulled her hoof away, looking to the floor. "I understand if you don't wish to help me, Bone Marrow. I've been a monster to you. I realize that only too late for it to make a difference."

"You're just going to kill me anyway, Celestia." Bone hissed, "Did you really think I would help you when my life is still up for a bunch of rich ponies to decide?"

The princess' ears folded down, her stoic mask dropping. "I don't want to see what happened to my sister happen to you as well, not after what I've seen today. Not after the mistakes I've already made."

The necromancer shook his head. "It's too late for that, Celestia. You've had ponies trying to kill or imprison me ever since I got my cutie-mark, and now you're coming to me, hoping that I'll help you see Princess Luna again?"

Windows had turned to ice, his skeletons had begun to freeze solid and the door was being frozen shut as Bone's anger grew.

"For all you've done to me, I hope that you'd never see your sister again!"

In an effort to see if she was already dead, Bone Marrow called on a certain name to see if his spiteful wishes were already true.

Princess Luna

Bone's vision swam through an endless void of black speckled with dots of white, soon ending on an expansive field of grey rock.

His vision moved, and he saw the dark hooves of a pony wondering what was happening to them. Luna looked up to a large orb in the sky, Blue and green with shades of brown mixed together like a flowing work of art.

Bone sat down, taken aback by the sights he was witnessing. His breathing slowed, his temper cooled and the room grew warm with water dripping from the ceiling.

"It's..." Bone muttered.

"What is it," Celestia desperately demanded, "Is she alive? What do you see?"

He could see clouds moving like wisps, shining lights of green and blue along the edges of the orb that intermixed with the light around them. He spotted tiny lights in the dark corners of the orb...

Luna blinked, pointing her hoof towards a mass of green. She then looked down to the dull rock below her as her hoof began writing a message in the dirt.

I'm sorry, sister.

Bone's sight ended, drawing him back to his own body. Celestia had moved her face down closer to the colt, watching him intently.

"What did you see?" She asked hopefully.

The necromancer's cold eyes turned to the Princess of the Sun, a chill returning to the room as the void grew within him.


Soul Jar

View Online

Celestia was suspicious of Bone Marrow's reply. He had blurted out something, his attention went elsewhere and the room had stopped freezing for just a moment. She knew that the young colt wasn't telling her the truth, but then again, honesty wasn't one of his elements.

The princess raised her head out of Bone's view and smirked to herself. Her sister had to be alive or his sight wouldn't have worked at all. She didn't know where her sister was, but knowing that she could still be saved was a gift of its own kind.

Her head lowered into Bone's icy gaze once more, "I should let you know what Scenic and I discussed, while you were here."

Bone's ears perked at the mentioning of his friend, though his temper continued its steady chilling of the room.

"I wanted to know the kind of pony you are; when the void inside of you isn't as strong." Celestia lowered herself onto the icy rug, her body melting away the chill and caused the floor to steam. "I wanted to see if it was already too late for you to turn back. I tested you with the Elements to ensure there was the tiniest shred of hope, and I was surprised to find the good in you."

The colt's eyes narrowed, emphasizing the skulls that rested within. "If you actually cared to know me, you'd just ask instead of having ponies hunt me. You just want things from me, and when I can't or won't give them to you, you'll kill me like all the other necromancers."

The solar princess rested her warm head on her forehooves in a display of patience. "I've come to a decision on that, thanks to your friend Scenic. I will remove the wanted posters, the call for your arrest, everything. You've had more than enough chances to kill ponies, to cause destruction and carnage... but instead you went for a banana split."

Bone shook his head, "I already told you that I don't want to hurt anypony. I just want to be left alone and live a normal life."

Celestia nodded, "I understand, Bone. The only problem with your argument is that I've heard it before from the other necromancers. They each said the same as you, and then they went on a rampage through Equestria."

"Maybe it was because you kept hunting them?" Bone snipped, "Why are you trying to be nice to me all of a sudden, anyway?"

She pointed a hoof at the small blanket wrapped colt. "Because you, Bone Marrow, may be the first necromancer I've come across that has a chance at preventing an even worse necromancer from replacing you."

Bone was unimpressed. "So you don't want to kill me because it would be annoying to deal with another necromancer? Why don't you just leave all of us alone in the first place?"

Celestia shook her head, "What were you planning to do with your skeletons in Scoria? You could've taken whatever you wanted then, had my Knights not been there."

The necromancer pulled his hood over his eyes, "Just leave me alone. You're not even trying to know me, you just want an excuse to kill me later."

The room's temperature began to rise along with Celestia's temper. "I'm not going to kill you."

Bone was frightened by the display of anger and power, shrinking further away from the princess underneath his bed.

Celestia took a deep breath and vented steam with a huff. "I apologize, Bone Marrow. I will leave you with your friend now; she's been waiting just around the corner for me to call her. Hopefully she can reach you better than I can."

The door was pulled open by the Princess' bright magic, the Alicorn sighing before closing the door behind her.

Moments later, the door opened once more. "Bone?"

The colt poked his head out from under the bed to find his friend looking for him. "Scenic!"

She spotted Bone immediately, her face confused before becoming worried. "What happened in here?"

"Celestia happened," Bone hissed. "She tried to apologize for how she treated me, then she wanted to know if Princess Luna was alive. She doesn't even care about her own ponies! She let me wander around Canterlot with you because she wanted to know if I would start killing everypony."

Scenic crawled underneath the bed next to her blanketed friend, pulling him close with a hoof. "She's... complicated."

Bone huffed and rolled his eyes, still upset with the princess.

"She just banished her sister a few months ago and doesn't even know if she's alive," Scenic explained, "She's worried about the Bright Moon raiding towns and she feels horrible about the towns that were lost from bandits."

"The loss of towns? Is that what she's calling the deaths of innocent ponies? The towns weren't lost, they were pillaged and burned. I can still see the ponies of Galloping Glades still floating in the lake with ash and blood in the water. Lost towns," Bone scoffed, "She probably hasn't been outside of Canterlot in years."

Scenic could see that trying to explain things to her friend wasn't working, so she instead went for her backup plan. "Hey Bone, guess what I snatched while Celestia was away?"

Bone looked over to notice Scenic's wing was bulkier than usual, hanging further away from her body. "Did you steal something from her?"

"Is it really stealing if it never leaves the palace?"

Her wing pulled back and she bit the corner of a book, resting it in front of Bone.

Necromancy for Necromancers, by Necromancers

Bone's eyes went wide with both excitement and worry. "Where did you get this!?"

"Keep it down, she might be lingering around somewhere," Scenic reminded her friend. "Celestia wanted to speak with me in private because she was worried you might have some weird magical influence over me. So, she brought me to a library at the far end of the palace. When she went to go speak with you, I had a few moments to look around and spotted this book! I don't think she even knows I took it; most of her books were coated with dust when I glanced over them."

"Won't she know you took it?"

Scenic batted a hoof at the concern, "She's busy doing princess stuff. Besides, if she was so interested in reading books then why would they all be dusty? Nopony uses things that are dusty."

Bone was uncomfortable with this, but equally interested. "Let's see what it says!"

The two foals pulled the book's cover open to eagerly read the first few lines of the old tome before quickly realizing something.

"What kind of language is this?"

Letters were jumbled together in an incoherent garble. Paragraphs ended where sentences began, some being upside down or scrambled together and some pages were entirely covered in ink.

"Is it supposed to be like this?" Bone wondered, lighting his horn to get a better view of the mess in front of him.

As he stared at the letters, the soft blue glow of his magic began to transform the pages. Colors shifted, lines formed and designs sprung from the page. Bone's ears folded back in surprise as the paragraphs rearranged themselves into proper order; words unscrambling themselves with things begginning to make sense.

Welcome, Necromancer. If you are reading this, then either I have suffered a horrible case of amnesia and stumbled upon this book, or I have died. In any case, I pass the knowledge of my years on to you- or myself once again.

In this tome you, and only you, will find a list of abilities that I have personally discovered over the centuries of my life. You may already be aware of the basics, such as Consuming your foes or other forms of life, but it was only later that I discovered the most important spell innately known to a born necromancer.

The Soul Jar.

It sounds ominous, I know. In practical use however, any object with a lid may be turned into a soul containment device. As an absurd example, a cook pot with a lid could be a soul jar, should you will it.

How do you make a soul jar, you may ask? The answer is surprisingly simple. You state the name of a pony or other being you know the name of and point your hoof at the object in question.

Yes, I know. I was startled to learn it was that easy myself. Then again, most things involving death are simple for us to learn, aren't they? It's our special talent after all, and it wouldn't be acceptable if just anypony could wield the powers we do with a degree in magical studies and gratuitous amounts of patience.

"Can you make any of this out?" Scenic asked, "It looks like gibberish to me."

Bone pointed to the page he was reading, "What, you can't read that?"

Scenic leaned over and shrugged. "Uh... Rotacove a-targ is ut coh eregel..." She shook her head, "It looks like complete gibberish."

"It's the first line, the pony that wrote this is saying hello to me, I guess."

Scenic raised an eyebrow, "Hey, maybe its better if only you can read this stuff, right?"

Bone looked down to the page once more, picking up where he left off.

Now is the understandable point that you would be asking yourself, 'Book, why in Equestria would I need whatever a Soul Jar is? Why is it so important?'

Well, the purpose of this book is to tell you why, of course. You can contain or protect the soul of anypony, excepting an Alicorn of course; a most infuriating discovery that has killed me more than once.

Why would you, an immortal necromancer, need a soul jar? Well, the answer is straightforward. You might not be able to die, but those you care about will die. It is guaranteed fact that they will die.

We both know better than the Princesses when it comes to how necromancers really are, after all. We know that nopony is an island to themself; our own will is not the weight that keeps us from fluttering away in the breeze of insanity.

By protecting the souls of those you care about, or by containing an annoying adversary that you'd rather not bother confronting personally, we Necromancers are able to manipulate the flow of life and death in a less obvious manner than any other pony.

Now, I must provide some clear distinction between protecting and containing a soul. If you intend to protect a soul, then you must not feel anger when you cast this spell. Anger and the biting cold that accompany it will twist your intentions into containing the soul, killing the pony and trapping them within the Soul Jar until its destruction.

If your mind is clear and you are at ease with the world, however fleeting a moment that may be in our dangerous lives, then your Soul Jar will protect that pony, preventing them from dying in an almost similar manner to your own. They will not receive a mark of death in their eyes as we do, and they cannot resurrect themselves like we Necromancers can, but you, dear reader, will be able to bring them back.

Should your beloved die at the hooves of another- and you've protected their soul- fear not. You will be able to return them to life, physically unharmed. They will be terrified, of course, at having experienced the death of their body. It will be up to you to explain to them what has happened, and that they are safe.

How do you bring back a pony? It is simple. You speak their name aloud with the Soul Jar nearby, and they will return to life if you've enough magic within you to spare. Be warned that the process will take up to a full minute to complete.

Another important thing to explain about Soul Jars, is that they are completely pointless for you, dear necromancer, to employ for your own soul. How would you speak your own name if you are dead?

Bone's head drooped onto the page for a moment. "Guh."

Scenic lifted her friend's chin. "Are you okay? Your eyes went weird there for a second."

"This book has a whole lot of information in it," Bone muttered tiredly, his thoughts fighting to remain coherent, "Way, way too much writing..."

"You've only been staring at that page for a few moments since we talked, Bone. You can't read that fast, can you?"

The young necromancer rubbed his head, resting the side of his face on the pages of the book. "I feel like somepony hit me over the horn with a library..."

Scenic ran her hoof through Bone's scraggly mane. "When was the last time you slept, Bone?"

He thought for a long moment, recalling the previous days as well as he could. "Uh..." Bone paused for a long while, his eyes fading in and out of focus. "When did your mom find me in the forest? Does death count as sleep?"

The filly's eyes went wide. "You haven't slept in weeks!?"

Bone shrugged, "I guess? I haven't really felt tired until I read this book..."

Scenic pulled the sides of Bone's blankets closer to his muzzle. "You, young mister, need to get some sleep."

He blinked tiredly, using the book as a pillow. "I don't even know if you're older than I am..."

She placed a lighthearted hoof on her chest, "I, am just old enough to be older than you, so that makes me the older friend, and I'm saying you need to get some sleep!"

Bone's argument died down at the same moment he took a sleepy breath, "But what about the princess?"

"I'll make sure you're safe, okay Bone? Nothing will get past me, not even Celestia!"

"Scenic..." Bone mumbled, "You're the best...I'm gonna put you inna... jar..."

As her friend passed out, Scenic's ears folded down a bit. Put her in a jar? That didn't sound too great... though maybe he wasn't making sense because he was tired?

Her thoughts were distracted as she heard a large clanging noise from outside. Peeking her head from underneath the bed, she noticed that Bone's skeletons were having trouble standing upright.

"Uh oh..."

One after the other, the four skeletons that guarded Bone's room collapsed onto the floor. Their bones were still intact and a dull glow emanated from their eyes, though their bodies had come to pieces.

"Sure hope you wake up soon, Bone..."

The morning came and went with Bone Marrow still sleeping atop his book underneath the bed when Scenic awoke. Celestia hadn't bothered either of the two foals, but the door had opened for a Royal Guard to nervously push the skeletons that fell apart outside to join the rest of the heap.

Scenic tapped her friend on the muzzle, hoping he would stir. "Hey Bone, are you okay?"

The colt mumbled, his face turning away and burying itself in the crease of the book.

She sighed, at ease that her friend was sleeping peacefully but still concerned about the both of them being discovered. She decided to leave a note for Bone that told him where she was going if he woke up while she was gone. She didn't want him to worry that Celestia had taken her away somewhere in the night.

Pulling carefully away from her friend, Scenic made her way towards the room's door and exited into the hallway. She was going to talk with Celestia again, to ask her what had happened last night between the two.

Her tiny hooves clacked against the marble tile of the palace's halls, guards nodding as she passed by. They weren't scared of her like they were of Bone, she noticed. The corner of her mouth curled in sympathy, recognizing what it must be like for everypony to be one glance away from screaming in terror.

The pegasus passed by the first room Celestia had taken the two of them, noting that the door was cracked open. Peeking her head through she noticed the Princess of the Sun herself standing at the far end, staring at the Elements of Harmony.

She did her best to sneak in, her hooves doing her no favors in stealth. Celestia turned her head quickly, noting that it was Scenic instead of somepony else.

"Come in, Scenic," Celestia offered. "I noticed that Bone Marrow fell asleep last night; his minions were passed out on the floor."

The filly cautiously approached, "He hasn't slept in weeks; since the last time he died."

Celestia sighed, "I should have guessed."

"What are you doing?" Scenic asked as she stood next to the more casually dressed Princess of the Sun.

"I feared that I was losing myself after banishing my sister. That I wouldn't be able to use the Elements without her if I needed to."

She looked up to the faintly glowing gems that rested on their pedestals. "Do they still work?"

Celestia slowly shook her head, "Barely. I may be able to use them only a single time before they turn to stone."

Scenic reached her hoof out to the Elements, curious as to how they would respond to her. Loyalty was the first to glow, brighter than any of the others that followed. Generosity, Kindness, Laughter, Honesty... all but magic.

Celestia smiled warmly, "I had assumed as much about you, Scenic Sights. The youngest ponies are often the ones that resonate most with the Elements. I was surprised when your necromancer friend came here."

"Has anypony had all of them glow before?"

Celestia nodded. "My sister and I, once upon a time... Now I fear that our time has passed. That the Elements have found ponies more worthy."

Scenic squinted, "What do you mean? You might be mean to my friend, but I haven't seen you act that way to anypony else... that doesn't mean the gems don't like you anymore, I think."

"Is your friend awake?" The princess asked in an effort to change the subject, "I would like to speak with him."

"I don't think he'll want to talk."

The two shared a moment of silence. Celestia lost in thought and Scenic worrying for her friend.

"I should go back to Bone..."

The princess nodded. "If you wish, Scenic Sights."

She moved away from the princess while looking over her shoulder, wondering what Celestia might be thinking about. If she was considering letting Bone Marrow leave in peace.

When the filly had left and closed the door behind her, Celestia placed her hoof close to the Element of Magic. All six elements barely glowed as the princess searched them for answers.

"What do you want from me?"

Scenic returned to Bone's room, pulling the handle slowly before pushing the door open. Bone was still underneath the bed, though he was staring at the tome about Necromancy more intently than he had been the night previous.

"Hey Bone," Scenic announced as she closed the door behind her. She noticed the skeletons were back on their hooves, though they mostly faced the door rather than remain out in the hallway.

The colt looked up with a smile, "Scenic!"

"Read anything interesting?"

He nodded eagerly, pointing to his pocket watch around his neck. "I had the best idea ever!"

Ducking down in order to climb underneath the bed, Scenic pulled herself next to her friend on the soft rug. "What idea is that?"

"I'm going to put your soul inside of my pocket watch!"

Scenic blinked, "You're what?"

Bone pointed to the book in front of him, a jumbled mess of gibberish to Scenic's eyes. "It says right here that if I'm happy and I say your name out loud, I can protect your soul in a soul jar. The book says a jar is basically anything with a lid, and..." He clacked the pocket watch open and closed repeatedly, a smile growing on his face. "This has a lid!"

The filly wasn't so sure about the idea. "Uh, wouldn't my soul fall out or something if you opened it?"

Bone quickly shook his head, "No, that's what's wonderful about it! Rich said this pocket watch is indestructible, right? I decided to test it, and see if it was really true. Look," He focused his glowing eyes on the pocket watch as small bubbles formed along the outer layer of metal. "Nothing!"

Her eyebrow raised, "What did you do, exactly?"

"I tried to consume it! I also tried to kill it too, but that didn't really work either. It doesn't have anything to kill, you know?"

She smiled, "You seem a lot happier this morning."

His eyes sparkled, a growing warmth to them just behind the skulls of his Iris'. "If I cast this, then I don't have to worry about you getting hurt anymore! If I die, it doesn't matter so long as I stay away from Celestia or a volcano. If you die... nevermind, it doesn't matter!"

Her ears folded a bit with uncertainty, "You're sure you know how to do this spell thing?" She nodded towards the book, "It looks like a bunch of nonsense to me..."

Bone nodded enthusiastically. "It'll be fine, all I have to do is say your name and point to the pocket watch!"

She hesitated a bit, looking to the jewelry around Bone's neck for a moment. "Does it hurt?"

He turned to the book, "Uh... it doesn't say?"

The promise of never dying, Scenic wondered. What does it feel like to have your soul in a pocket watch?

She shrugged, shaking her head incredulously at her own decision. "Go for it, I guess."

The room chilled as Bone smiled, his eyes suddenly glowing brightly, "Scenic Sights, tu ni airdyh!

The filly clutched her chest as she felt something being pulled away, her eyes widening with shock. She looked down and saw a wisp of energy coming from her and blinked. Before three seconds had passed, it was over. The pocket watch glowed a bright gold now and she was a bit chilled.

"Are you okay?" Bone asked, placing a hoof on his friend's side. "It didn't hurt, did it?"

Scenic checked herself over, feeling the place where the wisp had come from. "I... I don't know. I'm a bit cold?"

Bone pulled himself closer to her, closing the lid of the soul jar.

She warmed soon after, pressing her hoof against the pocket watch around Bone's neck. "That's so weird."

"Feeling better?"

"Can you open it again?"

Bone did as asked, and the chill returned. Scenic shivered, "Ooh, please close it; that feels so strange!"

It clicked shut, the young necromancer resting his muzzle on Scenic's hooves. After a moment's pause, she rested her head on Bone.

"Now we're both safe," Bone voiced happily, "We could leave Canterlot while Celestia isn't watching us; we wouldn't have to worry about either of us dying, and we could take this book with us!"

Scenic shook her head a bit, ruffling Bone's mane. "I don't think that's a good idea, Bone. She's really trying to do better, I just think that she's not used to it."

"Used to what," the necromancer scoffed, "Being nice for a change?"

"Would you give her a chance, Bone? If she's still mean to you, then we'll both know we're wasting our time."

He didn't reply for a while, mulling over the request in his head.

"For you I will," Bone replied quietly, "But if she thinks she can win me over with a few words of apology, we're leaving."

Scenic nodded, nuzzling into her friend's mane. "Good enough for me."

Finding Friends in Strange Places

View Online

Now dear reader, you may be wondering about skeletal minions, the second most important skill available to us Necromancers.

Bone was still reading his recently pilfered book underneath his bed while Scenic wandered around the palace. She wanted to find something to eat for the both of them, and it gave ample opportunity to learn more.

In moments of my own loneliness or insanity, I've noticed crucial things about our undead friends. Anything that you know, or are capable of, your skeletons will mimic. Yes, you've read this correctly.

They are not simply mindless servants. As we are born necromancers, our gift allows a spreading of our own mind to our servants, noted by a glowing of the eyes similar to our own. Their personalities will be based on your own, their actions dictated by your command or mood, and their ability to kill your enemies or defend themself will be based on your own.

If you have no skill with a blade or crossbow, neither will your skeletons. You might make up for this in numbers, as they are reasonably difficult to kill since they lack vital organs, but better trained and magically inclined ponies will decimate them effortlessly. Spend a few decades of your time learning the arts of warfare and you will have an army strong enough to strike fear into the hearts of those that would seek to kill you.

A large note: Your skeletons cannot cast magic. Attempting to cast a spell you know through your skeletons that is not tied to your natural abilities, or having the skeleton cast it through your shared memory, will cause it to disintegrate into a pile of ash. For this reason, unicorns or other magical beings should be the first priority of your army. We have no counter to their spellcraft aside from a blade or bolt through the neck.

Bone looked inquisitively at the skeletons guarding the room's door. "Hey, skeletons?"

All six looked in his direction.

"Can you wander around the castle and find Scenic Sights for me?"

They nodded, one moving to open the door for the others as they filed out of the room. The final skeleton closed the door behind it.

"That's so cool..."

As you may have noticed, your skeletons have a tendency to stand idly when not ordered to do anything. This is not a limitation of ability, but a limitation of your own imagination. Have them gather water for you, have them cook, clean, whatever else. If you've happened upon a particularly defenseless settlement, perhaps you could exchange the protection of your undead servants for safe housing. The ponies you come across are far more likely to grovel in the dirt for their lives or flee in terror, but there's always the odd few that stray from the flock.

Your minions do not require micromanagement. Instruct them with a general goal, and they will carry out that task until your own death. I myself have used skeletons to guard false hiding locations, just to spite the Knights of the Sun in their never-ending search for me.

A slow knock came to the door before being opened. A skeleton stood in the doorway with Scenic in tow, fairly confused.

"Um, Bone?"

The young necromancer crawled from under his bed with a wide grin, "It worked! I love this book!"

She looked up at the disguised skeleton, "Your book told you how to fetch ponies?"

He nodded, "That, and so much more! Every page I read is like a whole world of possibilities that I hadn't even thought of!"

Scenic smiled, moving past the skeleton and into the room. "Anything else exciting happen while I was gone?"

Bone shook his head, "No, just reading."

The filly leaned towards her friend with an air of conspiracy, "You'll never guess what I ran into out in the main entryway..."

Bone's ears perked with interest. "What was it?"

"A dragon!"

The two looked at each other for a moment, mischievous smiles spreading on their face.

"Should we go see it?"

"You bet your flank we're gonna see a dragon!"

The two foals poked their heads cautiously around the corner, spotting the large fire breathing lizard on the far end of the hall. Scales of amethyst, a belly of jade and sharp spines that ran down its backside of a gleaming emerald. It was far larger than anything Bone had seen before in his life, its head lowered enough to fit into the palace by just barely hitting the roof.

"It's huge!" Bone whispered excitedly, "How do they get so big?"

Scenic shrugged, "Should we go up and ask it?"

"What if it eats me?"

Scenic decided to take the initiative by shoving her friend out into the center of the hallway, soon following after. The dragon's attention shifted to the two tiny ponies, its head turning to look with a large eye in their direction.

"What is this?" The smokey dragon rumbled, "Does Princess Celestia allow hatchlings to roam her halls now?"

The two friends cautiously approached the looming mass of fire and scales, noting that it was holding something between its claws.

"Who are you?" Bone asked as politely as he could. He didn't want to anger it somehow and have to climb out of the dragon's ashes after being eaten.

The dragon's head slithered down to the floor, appearing far more agile than either foal had thought. Its face was larger than their bodies combined, an eye filling the same space as they did in the hall. The sides of the reptile's slit eyes flicked in a blink as it considered their question.

"Why should I tell you?"

"Um..." Scenic stumbled aloud, "We could be friends?"

A puff of smoke jetted from the dragon's nose with a huff of amusement. "And what makes you think that I would seek to befriend a filly and a colt?"

Bone looked up, testing the dragon's reaction to his own glowing eyes by pulling his hood down.

The action caused the dragon to perform a double take, first glancing towards the colt before a second look revealed something that gave it pause.

"You're... a necromancer?"

Bone nodded. "I'm here in the palace as a guest, though it feels more like being a prisoner since I'm not allowed to leave Canterlot."

The dragon's head moved upwards, shifting its focus to the colt with both eyes glinting in the candle-lit hallway.

"Curious that a pony like yourself still lives, then." The dragon squinted as it re-evaluated their worth. "I am called Skewer, Necromancer."

The foals then introduced themselves. "My name is Bone Marrow, and this is my friend Scenic Sights."

A razor sharp claw moved slowly towards the ponies, a single digit extending outwards. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, then."

Bone and Scenic reached out hooves of their own, each taking a side of the dragon's large nail to shake it.

"What's with the thing you're holding," Scenic asked, "It is a gift?"

Skewer held out their palm to the foals, revealing a small spiked oval. "It is one of my eggs, and yes, It is like a gift."

Scenic was impressed, "You're a filly dragon! That's why you look so pretty!"

Another puff of smoke came from Skewer's nose, "That's correct, though the claim of beauty is subjective. Ponies are easily impressed."

Bone was skeptical, "Why would you give a gift to Celestia? She's kind of mean from what I've seen."

Skewer held her green and purple egg between two sharp nails, examining it like a gemstone. "It is the smallest of my clutch, and each dragon is required to return at least one of her eggs each laying as a peace offering between the Pony of the Sun and all of the Dragon-kin." She shook her claw, rolling the egg back into her protective palm. "The days are hot enough in the Dragon-lands, and we don't want the sun making things any hotter."

"Celestia is threatening you with the sun if you don't give her eggs?"

Skewer shook her head. "Not an accurate summary; the situation is more complicated than that. We give Princess Celestia an egg every few hundred years and she ensures that the sun stays just close enough that nothing else will attempt to invade our lands, but far enough that we can still survive."

Scenic was now confused. "I thought dragons like the heat?"

The dragon held a proud claw to her reflective chest, "We dragons care little for lava and the like, that is true. However, our eggs are more sensitive to the heat; their shells requiring our protection from the liquefied rock."

The young necromancer tapped a hoof to his chin in thought, "You live in volcanoes then?"

Skewer smiled, rows of metallic spikes doubling as teeth being revealed. "That is true, Bone Marrow. We control the volcanoes of the world."

Bone looked to his friend, a plan forming in his mind. "So, what would it take to be a friend of all dragons?"

The reptile's brow raised in surprise. "Befriend the dragons? You're fairly smart for your age."

He shrugged, "You'd be the first to say it."

Skewer's sharp claw scratched across the amethyst surface of her chin, "Well, there is something you could do that no other pony could. Tell me, have you created a soul jar before?"

Bone nodded, wondering where this was going.

"There is a particular dragon among us that has killed its own kind. They've taken hoards from their fellow kin and escaped capture for centuries." Skewer pointed a razor sharp claw at the small necromancer below her, "With a soul jar, you could tear the soul from his body no matter where he chooses to hide, and we could cast it into the volcanoes of the dragon lands to be rid of him once and for all. In exchange, we will prevent your own death for the next millenia should Celestia attempt to kill you. What do you say, Necromancer?"

His ears folded down with suspicion. Never Trust Strangers.

"I'll give you time to think on it," Skewer relented. "Should you be interested, the dragon's name is Scald."

"How long will you be here?" Scenic inquired, "We can't leave Canterlot to come and find you."

"Knowing Princess Celestia, I will be here for days. This is the first hour of my arrival, and it is customary for her to greet visitors when they have had a moment to rest."

A steady approach of metal against marble came from around the corner, an uninformed guard yelping in surprise at the sight of not only a dragon in the hallway, but a necromancer as well. He gave a shaky salute before turning around to quickly trot in the opposite direction.

Skewer smiled once more, "That pony should be on his way to inform Celestia of my visit."

Scenic's stomach then chose an appropriate moment to complain of its lack of things to digest, grumbling loudly.

"You didn't find anything to eat?" Bone asked, "Nopony in the whole palace had food?"

The filly shrugged, "They had plenty of food, but I was thinking we could try going out into Canterlot again now that you're feeling better."

Bone hummed with worry, "Won't Celestia come looking for me again?"

She nudged her friend, pulling his hood over his muzzle again. "Not if you talk with her. Try telling her about Luna and maybe she'll leave us alone for once."

Scenic had decided to wait by the front gates of the palace while Bone went to confront the Solar Monarch. She reasoned that it would be a more genuine appeal to peace than if she was by his side.

The young necromancer hesitated a moment, his hoof hovering just next to the gilded door that lead into the throne room. Glancing at a nearby guard in an attempt to stall for time, the guard instead opted to get the necromancer away from him as expediently as possible, opening the door and revealing the Princess beyond.

Celestia was partly through eating a banana when the doors opened to an awkward Bone Marrow lowering his hoof.

"I could come back later, if you're busy..."

She finished the first part of her lunch, setting the banana's peel on a golden plate before replying. "Come in, Bone Marrow."

Tiny colt hooves tapped along the marble tile of the throne room, the noise echoing through the empty space.

"I wanted to talk to you," Bone voiced as he neared the table. "About what I saw last night."

Celestia seemed surprised, "What you saw?"

He nodded, finding a cushion to sit on. "When you asked me to see if Princess Luna was still alive, I saw something through her eyes. She was in the middle of a field of grey rocks, surrounded by small specks of light with a massive orb in the distance."

"An orb?"

"There were tiny yellow lights in corners of it, but one side was entirely dark and the other was lit by another orb that was even further away. I don't know where Princess Luna is, but I know she's alive... and she said that she was sorry."

Celestia's ears shot upward in surprise, "She was sorry?"

"Well," The necromancer shrugged, "That's what she wrote in the rocks. 'I'm sorry, Sister.'"

The princess was silent with thought for a moment, her hooves tapping against each other with a metallic clink.

"What brought on this change of heart?" She finally asked, "Was it your friend, Scenic?"

Bone thought about lying, taking the credit of the idea for himself to look better in Celestia's opinion and lowering her chances of killing him. It wouldn't matter in the end, he decided. Bone was certain she would kill him one way or another, no matter what she said to the contrary.

"Yeah, Scenic said that I should 'extend an olive branch', whatever that means."

Celestia smirked, "I'm glad to see you coming to your senses, Bone Marrow."

Bone moved away at the compliment, not trusting if it was genuine or just manipulation. "I also wanted to talk about being free to explore Canterlot, without you coming to drag me back."

The smirk vanished, Celestia's face becoming a mask of poise. "Why do you need to leave the palace?"

Bone felt a spark of annoyance at the princess' comment. "Because I don't want to be a prisoner for the rest of eternity."

The princess closed her eyes and took a calming breath. "I apologize, Bone Marrow. I am accustomed to dealing with ponies and creatures far more sinister than you."

"So, is that a yes?"

Princess Celestia nodded. "You've not killed a single pony since arriving here in Canterlot. So long as that continues, you are free to explore the city."

Bone hid his smile under his hood, standing from his cushion to move for the door. "Thanks, Celestia."

She gave no reply, instead moving to finish her meal as a fork stabbed into a stack of pancakes.

The colt walked down the golden steps leading out of the palace, his friend waiting for him at the gate.

"What did she say?"

Bone looked up and smiled, "We're free to walk around!"

Scenic's hooves tapped happily against the ground, "Where should we go first?"

He scratched his chin, "Um... anywhere is good. Anywhere that isn't the palace, at least."

The filly tapped her wing with a hoof, "Guess what I smuggled out?"

Bone's eyes widened, "How has nopony noticed that yet?"

Scenic shrugged, "Does it matter? Now you can study and explore!"

The book then brought something to the young necromancer's attention. "My skeletons are still in the palace. Should we take them with us? They're disguised for a reason and it might stop ponies from trying to kill us or something."

"Why would anypony kill us," Scenic questioned, "We're just walking around."

Bone pointed to his eyes, "Because I'm a necromancer?"

She nodded, "Yeah, that's probably a good idea. Just don't let them hurt anypony, alright?"

The two friends waited for a few minutes before six skeletons came from the palace, walking as normally as any other pony would despite their armoring.

"Well, looks like we're all set. Now we're off to... somewhere."

Exploring Canterlot went easier than expected. Bone's guards kept inquisitive ponies from bothering either of the foals as they assumed that the disguised skeletons were the protectors of some noble's children. None wanted to test their theory, as most guards had the habit of shoving ponies to the ground if they moved too close.

The more of Canterlot that passed them by, the more the void lurched and moved within the young necromancer. Chirping birds and the pleasant breeze were background noise compared to the beating hearts of the ponies around him, and it took a great deal of focus to drown out the noise.

"Hey, Scenic?" Bone questioned while holding his head, "Can we stop somewhere? I can't think straight."


The two friends found a shaded seating area beneath a tree, the skeletons blocking most paths towards them with their armored bodies and threatening weaponry.

"Can you pull the book out? There's gotta be something about this..."

Scenic plopped the tome down, a cloud of dust mushrooming outwards from it. Bone pulled the cover open, flipping past the previous areas he had read.

Now that we have the first two important subjects out of the way, we will move on to the most constant concern.

The Void.

The beating hearts of those around you, the hungering for death and destruction, the call to insanity that we fight every day. You know it well, as I have struggled with the void myself. Since you're reading this, then perhaps I've already succumbed to it!

It makes it difficult for us to blend in, though not as much as our glowing eyes. The Void is both a gift and a curse. With it, we know if flesh and blood is nearby, essential to our talents. Whether or not that flesh is attached to pony is a different matter, but that is up for you to decide.

What is more annoying however, is when you are surrounded by too much life. Your first instinct will be to purge it, to make it silent so the noise will stop. Incessantly beating hearts would drive anypony insane, even more so if there are thousands.

How do we make it stop, you ask?

We can't.

The Void is as much a part of us as our Cutie-Marks. It is annoying, but you can drown out the noise- the endless calling for blood and death.

Stay close to your friends, fellow necromancer. Keep those you care about safe and unharmed, for they are what holds the Void back from consuming us whole.

Alone, you will be driven to insanity. You will lose your fight against the void, just as I have.

Bone looked up from the book to his friend. "Do you want to try Pony Joe's again?"

"If you're up for it," Scenic replied, "I wonder if they have actual food there and not just treats?"

The young necromancer didn't really care either way. If keeping Scenic close was how he was supposed to deal with the Void, then he had one more reason to keep her safe. The filly took Bone's book back into her wing as the two left the table, making their way towards the diner in question.

"Do you think they'll give us a necromancer discount?" Scenic joked, "Two meals for the price of none?"

"More like they would run in terror."

"Come on, Bone. Celestia said that she didn't mind you trotting around Canterlot. It should be safe enough that you don't have to wear your hood up all the time."

Bone wasn't convinced, "She never said she didn't mind, she's just testing me. Let's not scare anypony today, okay?"

Scenic nodded, "You got it, Bone." Looking behind her, she noticed that the disguised skeletons were causing ponies to move to the other side of the street.

"You might want to leave those six outside, though."

Shaking Hooves With Death

View Online

"Welcome to Pony Joe's," the coffee colored stallion announced with practiced ease, "What'll it be for you today?"

Bone Marrow was surprised that Pony Joe didn't have a reaction to him being taken by Princess Celestia the day previous, but Scenic took the lead in the conversation.

"We'll take a booth."

The stallion pointed to the same area they were in yesterday, right next to the door. "A table for two, or are you expecting a royal third guest again?" He teased with a smirk.

Bone shook his head, "Hopefully just us for once."

"I'll send Miss Sundae over as soon as she's ready. You two have a pleasant day, and thank you for coming to Pony Joe's!"

The foals replied politely, making their way to the clean seats of the booth to stare at confusing menus once more.

"Do you think they serve normal food, like sandwiches?"

Scenic shrugged, "If they do, it probably comes with five scoops of ice cream by the looks of it."

Bone searched his menu, "What's ice cream?"

The filly's menu flipped around, a small hoof pointing to the item in question. "It's that thing."

His ears folded with doubt, "That looks like some kind of frozen egg..."

"Eh, It was on the Banana Split yesterday. Can't be that bad, I guess."

The waitress slowly approached the two young ponies as they discussed the menu, her eyes shifting nervously between the two. "What can I get you two dears today?"

"Do you have sandwiches?" Bone Marrow asked, his hood blocking the waitress' face from his vision as much as his eyes from her view. "All I've found so far is desserts and 'ice cream'."

She pointed her hoof to the rear of the menu. "It would be in our lunch menu, d-dear."

Bone's horn glowed a deep blue to flip the menu over, the writing soon shifting and clumping together before returning to normal when his magic vanished. "Oh, cool."

The waitress had never seen anything quite like that before, and was worried that the menu might be damaged somehow before she reminded herself that she was serving a Necromancer at the moment. She had seen Bone Marrow's eyes when Celestia carried him away to the palace and she had no intentions of upsetting him in any way.

"Would you need a bit more time to decide?"

"Just a few minutes," Scenic agreed.

"Call me if you need me, dears."

The faint sound of metal hooves clanking against cobblestone sounded from the front door before it swung open, the small bell chiming to announce the new customers. Bone glanced over his shoulder, his hood blocking most of his vision. Most ponies didn't wear plate armor when they went to dinner, so whoever had entered wasn't good news for him.

"Hey Joe," The first voice greeted pleasantly, "Have you seen that one colt around; wears a cape and whatnot?"

Bone thudded his head on the table, placing the menu on his head. "Can't I just have a single day without somepony coming after me?"

"Sure thing, Shield. Colt's right over there."

The young necromancer let out a drawn out sigh of annoyance, the room's temperature becoming noticeably colder. Clanking metal approached, two ponies from what he guessed.

"What do you want now?" Bone grumbled from beneath the menu.

"Sorry if we're intruding, Bone Marrow," The first replied, causing Bone's ears to raise with surprise. "We heard you were in Canterlot and wanted to pass on our thanks."

The necromancer's head shot up, the menu falling to the side. "You what?"

He was confronted by two Knights of the Sun in full armor, swords and shields included. One seemed to be a unicorn mare, and the other was an earth pony stallion.

The stallion spoke first, "We heard about what happened to Galloping Glades and... well, you saved a lot of pony's lives. My niece's included."

Bone's eyes narrowed with suspicion, "But you're Knights..."

"We know that," The mare replied, "But you aren't like the Necromancers we've heard stories of. You didn't go around killing ponies, you saved them. We can respect that, especially when your actions directly saved my husband."

He was completely lost now. "Who?"

The stallion reached into a pocket on his armor, producing a small roll of drawings. "My niece, Frosty Pie, drew these. All of them were about you, your glowing eyes, the skull markings... There's only one way she could've known about them, because I hadn't said a word about necromancers."

"And my husband just happens to be Cherry Pie, Frosty's father." The mare added.

Bone pulled away in his seat, "So... what do you want from me?"

The male guard shook his head, "We don't want anything more than what you've already done, as strange as it is to say. You're probably the kindest necromancer that's ever lived!"

"Hah!" The colt guffawed, "You're the first pony to ever call me kind."

"We did want you to know something though, Bone Marrow," The unicorn interjected, "Our captain, Captain Pure Intent? He thinks that you've poisoned the mind of the princess somehow. He says that he saw your mark of death in her eyes and that she's been acting strangely ever since."

Bone gestured to himself, "Look at me, do I seem like some sinister and all-knowing villain?"

The knights glanced at each other before replying. "Kind of?"

The necromancer sighed, his muzzle impacting the table once more. "Is it the hood?"

They nodded. "It makes you seem kind of creepy."

"What, and the skulls in my eyes don't make me look worse?"

"Eh, that's true," The knights replied in unison.

The knights stayed for a while, sitting in the seats opposite the two foals and listened to Bone's tale of events and what lead to him and his 'act of kindness' while their food was being made. The newcomers related stories of their own about protecting ponies in need and fighting off bandit camps to make Equestria safe once more. They expressed apologies for Scoria and Galloping Glades, as they had been ordered to protect trade ports and towns bordering hostile nations rather than being spread out evenly across the land.

Their conversation was interrupted by a quick tapping of the glass, startling the four ponies. It was Pure Intent with a perplexed look on his face.

"What are you two doing!?"

The knights innocently gestured to Bone, "We're talking!"

"You're conspiring is what you're doing!"

Growing red in the face, Pure Intent stormed away. He went from a walk to a gallop, heading straight for the palace.

Bone was quickly becoming numb to all of this drama. "Whatever, let him grab Celestia to come hunt me down in Pony Joe's again."

"We should go talk with him," The stallion replied, "My name is Shield Wall, by the way. My partner here is Phalanx."

Phalanx the unicorn mare gave a smiling salute. "Pleasure to meet you, Bone Marrow."

The two Knights scooted from the booth onto their armored hooves, wishing the foals well as they left.

Scenic tapped her friend on the side, "See? Not everypony hates you!"

Bone rolled his eyes, "Two ponies in a city of thousands. I'm adored."


There are a few things you should be made aware of in regards to your more standard spells, Necromancer.

First and foremost, the 'Devour' spell as I have called it will allow you to not only devour the flesh of the living and the dead, but it will empower your magic to greater heights the more flesh you devour. You may have a different name for this, as it seems most ponies name their own spells differently in their heads and have the same result.

If you attempt to devour a non-fleshy object, it will rapidly decay instead. Stone will dissolve into sand, metal will rust away into dusty shards and wood will rot and fall apart. Our magic is drained by doing this, however, so I would advise you to simply devour the flesh of your would-be attackers rather than attempting to dissolve their armor and weapons.

Another note: Magic and Crystal will block your magics. Crystal doesn't decay and has no life to speak of, and even a foal with a random shield spell being cast will block your ability to kill them. I only learned that particularly specific example when making my way through a crowded encampment, only to have a giggling idiot shoot off an unexpected spell that gave me away.

In any case, be aware of your limitations. A pony with a spell, unicorn or not, can kill you quickly. Use skeletons to counteract their shielding and to buy you time to escape capture.

Bone rubbed his eyes with a corner of his hoof, once again taking residence underneath the bed. He had been up all night reading from his necromancy book and it was fairly draining on him. Normally he wouldn't need to sleep, but reading took something out of him that he couldn't place. At the same time he tired, the void inside of him became quieter. He welcomed the break from hearing the constant beating hearts of everypony in Canterlot, though the fatigue worried him.

Tapping the page, he soon found where he had left off.

As an alternative to devouring your enemies, you can order them to Die on the spot. Their organs will liquefy, their hearts will shred into pieces and in moments they will be sputtering piles of soon to be dead flesh on the ground.

A fitting end for those that would kill you, I imagine.

At any rate, this spell can be blocked like any other: Crystal or Magic. The tendrils of death will glance off of a protective shield and hit the next closest pony in their trajectory like a crossbow bolt ricocheting from a stone wall. Crystal will simply not notice your spells either, as they have nothing to work with.

Keep yourself hidden, Necromancer. Hidden away with those that bring you joy.

Bone sighed. He could read and learn all day about Necromancy but the void inside screamed for him to test his abilities, to practice. He couldn't harm anypony, and he didn't want to. There had to be some way that he could practice, right? Maybe a stray animal that nopony cared for.

He groaned at that, resting his head on the open pages of the book. What kind of pony would he be then, tormenting random animals for his own pursuit of knowledge?

What kind of necromancer would he be if he didn't? He had a special talent that nopony else had, after all. If he refused to learn how it worked, it could end up getting him killed when he could've known something that would easily save him.

The cover of darkness is the surest way to remain hidden, both by the darkness of night and the darkness of your own design. Simply speaking the word, Darkness, will summon forth a portion of the void within you. It will devour all sources of light nearby, but isn't very useful during the day. It's a kind of 'advanced darkness' which might draw attention to you if you're out in the open. A noticeable drop in temperature is a warning as well to would be adventurers and bounty hunters that you do not wish to be found.

A pony is less likely to explore a cave that hungers with the darkness of the void, providing protection from all but the most foolish ponies. The most foolish being the Knights of the Sun, in my opinion.

Other helpful spells for avoiding capture are Blind and Deafen. You can use these spells to rot a pony's eyes and ears, making them useless for the rest of their lives unless mended by a particularly gifted healer.

Bone was curious now. Wouldn't the book mention his ability to heal other ponies? Had the necromancers before him not even tried?

I fully recommend you practice what abilities you've learned, and write them down onto this book for necromancers that will most assuredly follow in your hoof steps. This is the culmination of Necromancer knowledge thus far, as the notes I've discovered have been either damaged beyond all repair, secreted away by Princess Celestia herself, or been nothing more than the insane ramblings of a madpony for the centuries leading up to their final demise.

I wish you good luck, Necromancer.

For the sake of all of us, please add something helpful to this book with your magic. Scrawl it into the pages by willing it into existence and only we fellow Necromancers may read what has been written.

-Gloomy Night

Bone Marrow flipped the page, finding it blank. Page after page had been left empty, most of the book remaining little more than a weight.

"This can't be right!"

He flipped the book over, starting from the back and flipping pages to the front only to find the same amount of unused space between the covers.

"What am I supposed to do now? That was barely anything!"

Frustrated, the colt slammed the tome shut and slid it away from himself. He had hoped the book would contain more answers than just notes, after the centuries of necromancers in Equestria. There had to be something more to it, something that no other pony had discovered, right?

He looked to the book once more while scratching his head. "It said to practice, didn't it? Maybe they didn't have the time to study..."

Bone then thought of the last month of his life, constantly hounded, killed, running from place to place without a moment's chance to catch his breath. He hadn't been able to stay in one place for long without trouble raising its ugly head and then guessed that if he was constantly living in fear of his life, he wouldn't have the time to write down even what he had just read.

He sighed, "Maybe that's what my role as a Necromancer will be; adding on to what's written on this book."

The young necromancer shook his head, nudging the book further away from himself. "I'm not going to get myself killed by Celestia and be a waste to the Necromancers that will eventually replace me. I have to learn as much as I can while I'm free, don't I?"

His gaze peered through the nearby window, noticing a squirrel staring at him from atop a tree branch.

He grinned, "Perfect."

Bone Marrow had never bothered walking in the Palace's gardens, wanting to stay as far away from Celestia as possible at any given time. Scenic was out exploring Canterlot on her own, searching for ponies that seemed friendly and asking them for news on the happenings of Equestria.

In the meantime, Bone had decided that it would be a perfect time to practice his abilities. Looking from side to side, he summoned the void inside of him for some privacy.


Instantly he was reminded of his eyes being sliced open, laying on his back and squirming in agony as he was held down. He had used this spell once before, the same as Blind. He had been panicking, he was drunk... but nopony had been injured by his casting of the spell. Or did he have to speak it aloud?


He then realized it would be mostly pointless to test if he was blind if he was also enveloped in a complete absence of light, and willed the darkness away. The young necromancer could still see nothing.

"Huh. Guess that worked," Bone voiced to himself, touching the side of his muzzle with an experimental hoof.


His vision slowly returned like a steamed mirror, sight becoming bright and clear. Blinking, he looked around with sharpened eyes.

"This is so strange..." A voice muttered behind him. Bone turned around, noting the approaching Royal Guard. "I watch you come outside, talking to yourself like a crazy pony when all the light in the world vanishes into nothingness."

"Um, can I help you?"

The guard pointed to his clouded eyes. "You might have something to do with this, I take it?"

Bone reeled back, his ears flattening. "Oh! I'm so sorry!"

The Royal smiled, "If you can return my eyesight back, that would be wonderful."

Bone willed the guard to be healed, and witnessed bright pink flood into their eyes. They nodded politely.

"Thank you, Necromancer. Princess Celestia warned us that you might cast some of your magic around the palace, I just wasn't expecting to be caught in the epicenter."

Bone was growing quickly suspicious of this guard. "Why aren't you freaking out or panicking and trying to stab me or something?"

The royal shrugged. "I figure everypony has a reason for what they're doing, right? I'd rather talk with them first than jump to conclusions. Besides," The pony added, "I haven't seen this well in years."

"You're not going to try to kill me, even after I blinded you?"

"No," The royal replied with a soft voice, "I don't think I even could if I wanted to anyway."

Bone backed away from the guard. "You're being really strange..."

Their ears shot up, "Oh! I don't mean to, I just find you interesting is all. Do you want me to leave you alone?"

He was now even more disturbed. "You followed a necromancer, were blinded by them, and now you're asking if I want personal space?"

They considered that for a moment. "I guess it does sound kind of bad when you put it like that. Do you want help with anything?"


The royal nodded his head, extending his hoof. "I'm Shy Sprint. My friends call me Shy because I don't usually start conversations or spend time with them on my days off when they go to taverns. You're kind of an exception, though. I've always been interested with necromancers ever since I heard about them as a colt, so I'm kind of excited to meet you despite being blinded."

Bone Marrow tried to call on the Royals name, testing how much he could trust the guard. If the name had been correct, then he would know that this guard was at least somewhat trustworthy. He still had his own suspicions about why the stallion had followed him into the garden and watched him. Maybe Pure Intent wanted to place a spy next to him and watch his every move?

Shy Sprint.

Bone's vision quickly shifted through murky blackness and he was soon staring at himself through the guard's eyes.

"Oh, that's really s-strange," Shy stuttered, holding their hooves closer to their body, "Did it get really cold all of a s-sudden?"

Bone returned his sight to his own body after that, extending a hoof outward. "Shy Sprint, my name is Bone Marrow. Pleased to meet you."

The Royal straightened out, extending an armored hoof of their own with a smile. "Glad to help a fellow pony, necromancer or not."

"Stand still, okay? If this hurts too bad, let me know."

Shy Sprint was now standing atop a stone pedestal in the maze garden far away from the Palace. The guard happened to be a pegasus, offering the necromancer a lift over the hedges for a bit of added privacy as he practiced his craft. Surprising to any sane pony, the Royal also offered to be a test subject.

"Does it usually hurt?" Shy asked, his armor rattling together in fear.

Bone's hoof wavered, "A bit? I'm not going to go full necromancer on you, so don't worry."

He couldn't help but think about the insanity of the situation. Here he was with a royal guard that was offering themselves as a dart board for his spells. They were timid, sure, but brave enough to confront him face to face without so much as batting an eye at being blinded. Bone didn't want to hurt the pony, but he still had to know what kind of things would work and what the limits of his abilities were.

"Stick one of your hooves out in front of you, okay?"

Shy did as asked, one forelimb shaking its way directly ahead of his body as he looked away, closing his eyes. "R-ready when you are."

Bone took a deep breath, focusing his magic and the void tied with it into a single portion of the hoof. He wanted to see if he could consume just the trim of the golden armor.


A horrific screeching came from the metal as it twisted and cracked. Shy immediately scraped the gauntlet from his hooves and backed away on the pedestal, his wings opening for balance as he teetered on the edge. After a few seconds, the horrid sound ceased.

Both Shy Sprint and Bone examined the gauntlet, noting that the outer edges of the armor had corroded away leaving only the gold of the armor safe.

Shy shivered, "I'm glad I threw that thing away from me, now." His ears flattened as another thought crossed his mind, "Do you think I'll get in trouble for the armor being damaged?"

Bone took a moment to register what Shy had just said, his head slowly turning to face the pegasus. "I think you're past worrying about that at this point, don't you?"

"Hey Bone!" A shrill filly voice shouted from above, "Who's this?"

Scenic landed softly on the ground, a stray feather fluttering away as her wings folded. "New friend?"

The Royal and Necromancer regarded each other for a moment. They both nodded.

"Seems like it."

Bone's eyes narrowed for a moment, hidden by his hood. I'll see if you betray me, Shy Sprint. If you do, you won't live long enough to regret it. Until I can be sure, I'll play your game.

Return Investment

View Online

A heavy knock came to Bone's door, rousing both the necromancer and his friend from their slumber. His skeletons rose from their stasis and groggily inspected who had decided to intrude on their master's sleep.

"Bone Marrow! You're needed urgently!"

The skeleton swung the door open, revealing the golden armored Obscenely Rich. "Bone Marrow! Thank Celestia you're still with us."


"The manor has fallen! Come quickly, I will explain everything in the throne room."

Obsenely Rich then wasted no time turning from the doorway to clank his way down the hall, shouting to all that would listen and waking up the palace.

Bone rubbed his eyes, "What's he doing in Canterlot?"

When Bone and Scenic arrived with his escort of disguised skeletons, an assembly of nobles in night-time silken pajamas was arranged at the base of the throne. Celestia was at the center of a large circle of babbling ponies attempting to calm them down in order for Rich to speak.

"Fellows and mares, quiet yourselves, please!" Rich insisted, "There is great danger to Canterlot, and I must be heard!"

Bone chose to sit on the outskirts of the group within earshot but not close enough to cause a panic if a noble spotted him lingering around.

"As you know, my manor has been under assault by the Bright Moon for the past several days. Bone Marrow's skeletal army has been providing the entirety of the defense, but his minions have fallen over numerous times, leaving the manor defenseless."

The young necromancer shut his eyes and rested a hoof on his forehead. He had been sleeping, and he still had most of his skeletons in the manor as defense. When he fell asleep, the skeletons fell asleep as well, leaving Rich helpless against an assault.

"Rather than await our doom at the hooves of the Bright Moon, we retreated from the manor in the morning to avoid the nightly assaults of the rebels. Myself, along with a dozen or so survivors, have only recently arrived at Canterlot. It won't be long before the Bright Moon makes an attempt on the capitol itself!"

A noble scoffed, "What has you so worried, Rich? It's not like these rebels could actually succeed against Princess Celestia's power. They would all be incinerated on the spot!"

Rich shook his head, "No, that's what I've been meaning to tell you all! They've uncovered some kind of fiendish artifact known as the Loathsome Heart; stolen from the Knight's reliquary!"

The nobility seemed confused as to what the golden pony was even talking about, so Princess Celestia explained.

"It is an artifact from the second necromancer to ever live." The room quieted with dread as a few finally noticed the glowing eyes of Bone Marrow in the corner of the room and pulled closer to each other. "In the Necromancer's final moments, they attempted to protect their soul in a soul jar; In this case, a small heart shaped locket of silver."

"This process did not end well for anypony nearby," Celestia continued, "The necromancer's spell had failed when their body was immersed in lava. Their soul split into pieces, each fighting for control of the locket and shredding the ponies nearby in their battle. Each dead pony added their own soul to the locket, causing the necromancer's soul to swarm around the soul jar like a blizzard of death."

The Princess looked to Rich. "The artifact has lain dormant for centuries, Obscenely Rich. How do you know this is the same relic?"

"There was a great screaming that echoed through the forest two nights ago," Rich explained. "Crystal Ponies wore the Loathing Heart around their neck, and Bone Marrow's Skeletons were obliterated into splinters when they approached. I think they were testing the artifact to ensure it fully worked before invading the manor proper."

"That sounds terrifying," A noble interjected, "But why would this be cause for concern? Certainly Princess Celestia will be able to obliterate the vile thing before it ever nears Canterlot."

Celestia shook her head, her expression serious. "I've already tried to do that, but the magics holding the artifact together are not known to me. I've attempted to study the Necromancer's work, but the words were gibberish, ranting or complete insanity."

She looked over to Bone Marrow. "There might be one Necromancer willing to help us, however."

Bone was now the center of attention and he crossed his hooves in front of his chest. "And after I somehow figure out how to defeat this locket of doom, you'll just throw me in a volcano, is that right?" He pointed to Celestia, "I know why the books are rambling insanity, Princess. You're not meant to read them!"

The side of Celestia's mouth curled in a grin, "I see you've been reading the book I set out, then?"

Bone blinked. I just admitted to reading a stolen book, didn't I?

"I knew your friend Scenic would grab it for you; I wanted to see what you would do with it." Celestia explained, "Despite reading whatever was in that book, you haven't gone insane and begun a murderous rampage through Canterlot. In fact, from what I hear, you've been making friends."

A mustachioed noble coughed loudly into his hoof, "Ahem, Princess Celestia? Perhaps this is not the time for this conversation."

The sunny Princess stared blankly ahead before nodding. "You're right; there's an army approaching."

"The book didn't say anything about this 'Loathing Heart', by the way." Bone interjected, "I have no idea how to get rid of it."

"We'll have to deal with the problem when we come to it, then," Rich suggested, "In the meantime, What can everypony do to shore up the defenses of Canterlot?"

"Well," A proud noble tutted with a hoof on their puffed out chest, "My personal guard should be more than enough to deal with these rebels."

"How many?" Bone called out to the noble.


The young necromancer broke out into a fit of giggling that bordered on disturbing cackles. "Twenty- twenty five!"

Nopony in the room had ever seen a laughing necromancer before, and took several steps away from the glowing colt.

"They're going to send twenty thousand ponies to Canterlot and you think twenty five are going to solve the problem!?"

Each noble raised a hoof of their own, bidding their personal guard and levies to the Princess. In total, and after Bone Marrow could stop laughing for a moment, the nobles added a total of little under a thousand to the defense of the city.

Bone shook his head, still grinning under his hood. "You're going to need a lot more ponies than that."

"Princess Celestia," Rich posed cautiously, "What of the graveyards?"

"Don't you dare suggest-" A noble interjected.

"What of them, Obscenely Rich?"

The golden pony simply gestured in the direction of Bone Marrow. "Well..."

Bone could feel the void inside of him madly cackling on its own. Oh now you need the help of a Necromancer; just days ago you were all planning to kill me!

"You want me to raise the dead of Canterlot to help you?" Bone suggested, "You're definitely going to have me killed after all of this, aren't you?"

Celestia shook her head with a huff of annoyance. "Bone Marrow, I am not going to have you killed."

"Then what about your Knights of the Sun?" The necromancer countered, "Their entire purpose is to hunt me down to kill me, and ponies like me, until the end of days. If you think I'm going to put myself on the line while they're still around, you can kiss Canterlot goodbye."

At this moment, Celestia was reminded of Bone Marrow's reaction to the Element of Kindness.

"I don't want ponies to die, sure. I don't think anypony does," Bone continued, "But I'm not going to help for nothing."

The nobility held their breath at the exchange between Necromancer and Princess, parting ways so any magic that might be thrown around wouldn't hit them in the crossfire.

Celestia clenched her jaw in thought. Her eyes narrowed.

"Very well," she replied with forced politeness. "You will no longer be hunted, and I will disband the Knights of the Sun in exchange for your assistance in defending Canterlot and dealing with the Loathing Heart."

The ponies of the room were shocked. "B-but Princess Celestia! Surely you could call upon the power of the sun to eradicate these fools! What challenge do they pose to you?"

"The duties of raising both Sun and Moon have left me drained," the solar princess explained, "My magic is not what it used to be since Nightmare Moon. If I am to defend Canterlot, then the Sun and Moon must remain in their place. I would be subjecting entire nations to an icy winter or baking summer for as long as the battle went on. It could be months that we are under siege, and I cannot risk adding more armies from other nations into the mix."

"For this reason," Celestia continued, "The defense of Equestria falls to the ponies that inhabit it..." she then pointed to Bone Marrow, "No matter who they might be."

A morbid question rose from Bone Marrow, "Could you have killed me all these days I was worrying, or was that just a show?"

She smiled, "No, I could have still killed you; though I'm becoming thankful that I didn't."

"But-" a noble interrupted, "But what of the dead? The citizenry will riot if they see the graves of their loved ones being violated by this witchery!"

Bone could practically feel the scorn the nobility still had for him, save for Obscenely Rich. He decided that he wouldn't go out of his way to make sure they stayed safe, as he held equal distaste for the nobles as well.

"I will have to make an announcement," Celestia replied. "All of Canterlot must be informed about what we have discussed and what is soon to happen."

"Bone Marrow," Rich voiced, "When you were in the manor you used your abilities to heal other ponies, some with grievous injuries. Could you pay a visit to the infirmaries and hospitals of the city? We could use all the help we can get and it would also ingratiate the public to your presence. Perhaps if they see you in a kinder light, ponies might not be so averse to your raising of the dead in defense of the city."

Bone smiled, "So long as I don't have to worry about ponies screaming and running away at the sight of me, I'll do what I can."

"Then it's decided?" A noble questioned, "We are to allow a Necromancer to throw his magic around and raise an army inside our very walls? Who is to say that he won't betray us and side with the Bright Moon?"

"I say," Bone countered. "I already agreed to help, and I've fought the Bright Moon before. I want nothing to do with them."

The sun rose as Celestia commanded each day leading into morning. Bone hadn't slept since the conversation last night as he had been planning a route through Canterlot with a helpfully provided map from Obscenely Rich. The map detailed apothecaries, infirmaries, hospitals and veteran's homes.

His magic had healed broken bone before, and had reversed the aging of ponies as well. If he could heal these ponies, then they would be able to fight. Even more, they would be thanking him and spreading good word of his assistance.

"Do you think you should wear a sign?" Scenic asked. "Necromancer: Free Healing of Any Wound or Disease."

Bone raised an eyebrow to that. "Do you think ponies would even give it a chance before they ran?"

She shrugged, "Who knows. Maybe after Celestia's announcement they'll be lining up for the chance. Judging by the guards you've met, maybe they'll want to shake hooves too."

Bone's ears perked at that, "Hey, that's a good idea! If we get Phalanx, Tower Shield and Shy Sprint to accompany me, then ponies are less likely to flee from the sight of me."

"And," Scenic added, "You can walk around without a hood covering your eyes all the time."

Celestia's announcement had caused a small riot among the ponies of Canterlot. They feared that without the Knights of the Sun, evil would raise its head almost immediately to claim Equestria. The Knights themselves were none too pleased with the development, but the Princess eased their fears by stating that they would be integrated into the Royal Guard rather than discharged from service.

She also stated that Bone Marrow would be pardoned, and that he would soon be visiting the graveyards of Canterlot to raise an army in defense of the capitol. That didn't go well, as even Royal Guards turned from managing the crowds to joining them in outrage. Celestia explained that she would be able to contain Bone Marrow, as she had with the other three necromancers without issue. She told them that Bone Marrow made a deal with her for the pardon. The defense of Canterlot for the continuation of his life, lived in peace and seclusion.

The ponies grumbled and complained, but eventually they agreed with their leader. She often knew best, as the sayings went. Even if nopony really knew what she was doing, they trusted her judgement.

Bone Marrow and Scenic were wandering through the cobblestone streets of the gold and marble city, the necromancer wearing a sign that promised a cure to all maladies, ailments and injury.

"Think anypony will take up the offer?"

The foals were joined by their Royal Guard friends; Shy Sprint, Phalanx and Shield Wall.

"We could always start in the poorer districts. Nopony travels down there much and they could use all the help they can get." Phalanx explained.

Shy nodded, "They have the most sickly ponies as well. There isn't a whole lot that we can do for them with the Bright Moon fighting us all the time. We need our healing ponies to help on the front lines... I just never imagined Canterlot would be one of them."

"We'll push them back," Shield Wall replied. "They're not backed by the Princess, are they? Let alone Bone Marrow here." The stallion ruffled the colt's mane, as his hood was lowered for a good look at the city now that he was pardoned. "We've got the Sun and a Necromancer on our side."

Bone smiled at that, happy to finally be able to see the city without a layer of cloth separating him from the world. Ponies would still stiffen with fright when they gave him a second look, but the Royal Guards accompanying him reduced terror to cautious worry.

After an hour of walking, a pony finally called out to the group.

"Help me, please!"

The mare was covered in sores and boils, looking sickly as their muscles had atrophied.

"I'll take any help," The pony added before coughing wetly, a glob of slime smacking onto the cobblestone where they sat. "Any help you can offer, necromancer or not!"

Bone Marrow's eyes were wide with shock at what he was witnessing. Each movement pained the poor mare, her breaths rasped and bubbled, and the necromancer could barely feel her beating heart.


His eyes glowed brightly for a moment before the mare shimmered with a deep blue glow. It started from her chest and spread like a wave throughout her body, boils receding and blisters disappearing. Her breathing eased, her muscles returned to a chiseled perfection and she examined herself, an incredulous look on her face.

"I-Its... I...."

She was wide eyed, as impressed as the gathering crowd of ponies that had just witnessed her recovery. It had taken less than a minute to complete and already the mare looked as happy and healthy as anypony that had never been afflicted a day in their life.

The mare rushed forward, taking up the young necromancer in her hooves with a smile from ear to ear. "Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Bone had to defend himself from a smothering of kisses, his hooves deflecting or intercepting the recently diseased pony's muzzle of gratitude.

"It's not a problem, Please-" Bone replied, "Please put me down!"

The mare caught herself, a blush of embarassment blooming as she set the colt onto the cobblestone. "Thank you, necromancer." She then lightly coughed as if by habit, suprised that nothing was coming up. "If there's anything I can do to repay you-"

"Actually," Bone interjected, "To everypony listening and gathered, If you wish to repay me, then join in the defense of Canterlot! There is an approaching army of the Bright Moon on the horizon, a day's march from here. I will heal any affliction or injury you suffer, so long as you defend the capitol!"

The mob of injured and sick ponies grumbled, "What has Canterlot ever done for us?"

"Yeah, they let us sit here in the slums, rotting away while they ate cakes and sundaes!"

The Royal Guards were becoming worried now as the mob grew angry at them.

"It's not our fault!" Shield Wall shouted over the sickly coughing of the crowd, "We've been fighting the Bright Moon to keep you all safe!"

"Look at us!" A crippled pony replied, their legs shattered and misshapen. "You've done a poor job of that!"

The area was becoming frigid quickly, Bone's patience wearing thin. "Everypony!" The necromancer shouted, "If you're not going to help Canterlot, then help me!"

The mob was bundling themselves together, their rags and tattered blankets doing their best to fight the icy frost of Bone's temper.

"I will heal each and every one of you, so long as you find more ponies for me. Gather them here, bring them to me, and I will cure their wounds! If Canterlot has abandoned you, then let me take its place!"

Bone focused his thoughts on the nearby beating hearts of the sickly and injured, the void's incessant tally of all the living in Canterlot being sharpened to a fine point.


Sickness gave way to eased breathing; crutches were dropped to the side as ponies tested their limbs. Rags were thrown to the ground with disgust, now that the mob was freed from their pestilence. One after another, the group of ponies turned from bitterness to tears of joy.

Just as the first mare had done, now others were scrambling to give praise to Bone Marrow. The air grew colder as each attempted to hold the small colt, to ruffle his mane and pat him on the head. Stone was covered with ice, patches of sickness became slick and caused ponies to slip.

"Get away from me!" Bone shouted, startling the mob. "Bring the injured and sick, but don't touch me."

The mob backed away at the outburst, each choosing to count their blessings and to do as the young necromancer instructed. They scattered throughout the alleyways in search of others, careful not to slip on the icy ground.

Scenic was worried, placing a hoof on her friend's shoulder causing him to flinch. "Bone, are you okay?"

His eyes were frosted and his expression blank. "I can feel it, Scenic." He pressed a hoof against his chest, "The void."

"But, you were helping ponies; how can that be making things worse?"

The colt tapped a hoof against his muzzle. "The clambering, the excitement, the beating hearts getting faster as I healed them... It was a rush, Scenic. Healthy flesh to consume instead of diseased."

Scenic pulled Bone close to her, wrapping her hooves around him in a hug. "Bone, you're helping ponies, not hurting them. That makes you a good pony, okay? You're not going to lose yourself to that void if I have anything to say about it."

The arctic air warmed at that; Bone slumping into the embrace of his friend and returning her hug.

"You've just saved the lives of dozens, Bone." Shy Sprint reminded him, "Without you, nopony would've even known they existed. Now they get a second chance at life, free from disease or injury. You're the best healer I've ever seen."

The young necromancer looked from the shoulder of Scenic to the three Royal Guard that stood nearby. Each was smiling in the moment, and he could hear their hearts being a little easier.

The healed ponies stayed true to their word, gathering the sickly and the injured. They directed Bone Marrow to nearby hospitals and apothecaries that had gone unnoticed on Bone's map and he paid a visit to each of them, instructing them with the same goals of helping him find the injured and sickly to heal.

Word spread quickly of his deeds as ponies ventured out of the slums and pits of Canterlot into the wealthier districts towards the palace. They spoke of Bone Marrow healing them of their wounds, and old friends re-united once again now that they could speak freely without risk of infecting each other.

Each group that Bone healed, however, made the void within him deepen. The renewed vitality of the ponies around him added to his own hunger, to the void's call of death and destruction no matter how much he resisted it. He decided then, that if he had to kill ponies to keep himself from falling into insanity, that the Bright Moon would lament the day they decided to assault Canterlot.

He ventured to the graveyards of the large city, his passing causing the dead to rise from their graves and force rusted gates open from the crypts. Shaking Royal Guards gave weapons and armor to the passing skeletons, each of them nodding politely as they received tools of death. Somehow, the courteousness of the undead made the living ponies all that much more frightened.

The skeletons lined the walls of Canterlot, they patrolled the streets. Each clattering and chattering their teeth as ponies walked by in restrained terror. The servants of Bone Marrow were not attacking them, they realized. They may have been the long dead relatives and ancestors of those in Canterlot, but some argued that they served a better purpose in defending the city than laying uselessly in their graves, rotting away as their descendants perished.

Though frightened by the chilly passing of Bone Marrow, ponies began to see him in a different light. They were still terrified of him, of course, but they now nodded in return to his skeleton's passing. They thought that at any moment the necromancer might be looking through the eyes of his minions and it was a small inconvenience to greet a grisly representation of their future death in exchange for the good graces of a pony so capable of destruction.

As the setting sun lowered in the distance, Bone couldn't help but feel a slow doom approaching him. The beating hearts of the Bright Moon grew as he noticed them gathering in the dusk, and the void within demanded their deaths.

The Coldest Night in Equestria

View Online

Thousands upon thousands of hearts beat quickly, both of the city and the armies below. The Bright Moon had brought not only themselves but the vengeful remnants of nations destroyed by their own hoof at Celestia's command. Minotaur, Griffons, Bi-pedal dogs that caused Bone's blood to boil and other nameless yet brutish species that the young necromancer had never even heard of or seen mention in any story.

They assembled in wide ranks, Bat ponies leading the way with enchanted shields floating to their side, blades held at the ready. Minotaur bellowed and stomped the floor working themselves into a blood-lust as they swung double-headed axes large enough to cleave a pony in half. Armor of steel, cloaks of skinned hide billowing in the wind. The Griffons hovered in the sky, screeching and threatening the ponies and skeletons along Canterlot's walls. Bone had seen them fight before in the town of Scoria, and they much preferred to grab hold of their victims and bring them soaring into the sky, biting their neck before dropping them onto the ground below.

The sheltered citizens of Canterlot were terrified. Those who refused to fight were locked away securely with the few guards that the city could spare. All that remained readied themselves beyond Canterlot's main golden gate armed with swords, spears and sticks. Bone Marrow's skeletons were the bulk of the city's defense, each standing with an eerie stillness compared to their living counterparts nervous mutterings.

Bone scratched his muzzle, his gaze sweeping over the army that assembled in the valley below. His eyes glowed fiercely from the beating hearts, the heavy breaths that accompanied shouted orders and speeches of morale. He could see Princess Celestia giving a speech of her own near the main gate, ponies listening attentively as if their lives depended on her every word.

Scenic had remained by Bone's side, worried that the coming battle would cause the void to overpower and drive him insane. From the way her friend was acting, her concerns were threatening to become true.

"I could end this battle now," Bone sighed, "I could kill every last one of them. Every death adds another skeleton, every skeleton gives me another pair of eyes to consume and kill from."

She placed a hoof on her friend, "Maybe they'll want to parley first, like the manor?"

He shook his head, a grin spreading on his face. "No, they came here to fight, not to talk." He pointed down to the group of Minotaur as they wrestled with one another, others cheering them on with the heavy bass of war drums thundering across the valley. "Do they look diplomatic, Scenic?"

An icy chill was coming from the young necromancer. Carried by the wind, Scenic could see ponies shivering down in the city below their vantage point in the Palace. Bone didn't need to be on the front lines to have an impact on the battle, after all.

"Shouldn't we give them a chance to talk?"

Glowing skulls greeted her question. "They've had months to speak. They wanted me to be a monster for them to slay; to save villages from. They're not in this conflict for peace or for anything noble, they just want power."

She placed a hoof on her friend's icy shoulder. "Bone, you need to be careful. I don't want to lose you because you gave in to the void. Try to take it easy, okay?"

The necromancer chuckled at that. "Have they ever taken it easy on us? On anypony they've ever killed, burned or pillaged for supplies? They've come here to fight, Scenic." He swept his hoof across the army below, "They're all going to die whether they wish for peace or not."

From the hordes of the Bright Moon below sounded a long note from a deep horn. The ranks of Bat Ponies moved forward as some took to the skies above and they advanced forward. Glinting steel of crossbow bolts shimmered in the moonlight, soaring towards the approaching ranks seeking flesh to embed into.

Bone's grin turned into an awful cackle. "They're attacking!"

The air was becoming arctic as hearts beat faster, as distant shouts sounded and cries of agony reached the young necromancer's ears. Each death was a rush, a spike of adrenaline. Skeletons chattered and clacked their bones together as they rattled with excitement mirroring their master's. Ponies had become more frightened of the dead than the Bright Moon, some abandoning their posts.

Minotaur followed after the mages that shielded them with magic. Some opted to pick up the unicorns in front of them in order to charge ahead, spells and bolts glancing off of them as the terrified mages screamed. Griffons and Bat Ponies descended on the wall's defenders, plucking them into the sky or sheathing daggers in their necks. Blood began flowing in earnest as the Necromancer's body shook with glee.

"Bone!" Scenic shouted, shaking her friend. "Get a hold of yourself!"

The hooded necromancer gestured to the battle below, "But the death! The destruction and carnage... it's calling to me, Scenic. It's begging me to join in and-"

Scenic delivered a swift strike across Bone's muzzle, knocking him to the marble tile floor. "Bone Marrow, control yourself!"

Bone looked up to his friend, a hoof tenderly testing his face. The icy wind faded for a moment as he sat with stunned silence.

"If you lose yourself to the void, this battle won't matter. Everypony will die, including me. Do you want that?"

He slowly shook his head, looking out to the battle below.

"Do what you can to help them, but you have to keep yourself in check, alright?"

The necromancer nodded, standing back on his hooves and resting on the tower's railing. The void within noted the beating hearts, and those that had fallen in the battle already. They would never beat again, Bone knew, but he could give them a chance of revenge for their death.

A massive pulse of dark blue magic eminated from the tower like an expanding sphere drawing the attention of the battle's participants. Flesh melted from bone, the dead shook and convulsed before standing once more to arm themselves. A second pulse crashed into the battlefield and the blue glowing eyes of new skeletons joined the battle. Skeletal minotaur empowered by their master wrestled with their fleshy counterparts, Griffon tackled Griffon in the air as the skeleton's tactics became suicidal, causing them to plummet to the ground by shearing wings from their opponent's body with their beaks and talons.

Ponies along the wall watched with horror as their friends rose once again, as they lurched to life while being clutched by their lover to join the dead on the walls and to fend off more attackers. Bat Ponies and mages below broke ranks as the abominations of horror rose next to them, plunging steel into the tendons of their necks. Lances of fire and ice swept through the Bright Moon's formations as mages desperately tried to keep themselves alive from the quickly growing swarm of the dead.

Bone could feel the void returning, begging him to do more. He could cast more than a single consume spell. The side of his face twitched, his ears flicking as he fought to remain in control of himself.

He possessed a skeletal minotaur in the valley below near the main gate. The void within whispered wicked ideas born of the carnage and destruction.

Consuming Darkness.

He could still see through his minion's eyes as an absence of light eminated from it. Bodies nearby were devoured, their flesh and bones melting and turning into ash as he willed the minion forward into the ranks of the Bright Moon. He rolled directly through the front of a formation's shield wall sending them flying and melting, their screams cut short as the darkness consumed them.

Bone was shaking once again, the deaths nearly overpowering him. He returned to his own vision after the minotaur was incinerated by a fireball and he witnessed what remained of the formation below become an inferno. He could imagine the Bat Ponies shrieking in terror as their fur and flesh melted from their bodies, crisping and charred with their armor becoming slag on their backs.

Scenic shook her necromancer friend once again, "Bone! You're losing it again!"

He shut his eyes and turned away from the battle below. He couldn't see the death and destruction but he could still feel it. Beating hearts being pierced with blades, skulls being split in half and limbs severing.

"There's too many down there Scenic," Bone shakily replied, "Th-they all have to die or they'll take Canterlot!"

She embraced her friend, witnessing his steadily losing battle against the void within him. "Bone, you have to focus, okay? Think of good things, happy thoughts!"

Bone let out a maniacal laugh that caused him to double over onto the ground. "Ha-happy thoughts! You think happy thoughts are going to stop this!?"

Scenic was quickly becoming overwhelmed herself, not knowing how to deal with her friend's suffering. "Bone, you have to keep yourself together!" It was all she could do to repeat what she had said before. It had worked, but as the battle continued she couldn't help but notice the icy cold creeping out of her friend.

The necromancer was breathing quickly now, his eyes shining into the night like a beacon, "No, Scenic. If I'm going to keep myself together, I have to kill them as fast as possible. The longer this fight goes on, the more blood that spills over the hours, the more the void will have a chance to call to me!"

He looked through the golden railings of the tower to the battle below. The skeletons outside of the wall had fallen, taking more of the living with them. It was the perfect moment to raise more of the dead. Two massive pulses of energy cascaded from the tower in quick succession and caused the recently perished to take up weapons against their former allies.

Scenic could only watch in horror as the situation rapidly fell out of her hooves. Anything she yelled wouldn't get through to her friend; he wasn't listening anymore. She watched his head twitch as Bone shifted from skeleton to skeleton, waves of darkness and death hurling itself into the ranks of the Bright Moon below.

She could see Princess Celestia in her armor wielding a golden battle axe, cleaving through Bat Pony after Minotaur as they attempted to kill her. More than once the alicorn had risked a glance to Bone's tower.

Searching the battle below, she noticed that the Crystal Ponies had disappeared from where they last were. Looking into the skies as she remembered what happened in the manor. She turned around, noting the faint shimmer of a Crystal pony's eyes and yelped in surprise as the assassin grabbed hold of her.

"Necromancer!" The pony shouted, and Bone immediately turned to face the newcomer.

They were a Crystal Pony clad in black garbs to conceal their reflective body. A dark blade was threatening to plunge itself into his friend's neck. He nearly commanded the pony's death before remembering the manor, and the book's warning about spells glancing off.

"What do you want!?" Bone shouted.

"For you to look my way, idiot!"

He turned just in time to see two Crystal pegasus swoop down on him, yanking him into the sky.

"Bone, No!"

Up and up the ponies carried Bone; the chill of the sky nothing compared to the frost and fog of the Necromancer's anger.

"Bone Marrow!" A familiar voice shouted to him.


The young necromancer scowled, fighting the grasp of his abductors. "What do you want, Anvil? If you wanted me to kill you, you could've just asked!"

The leader of the Bright Moon was shielded by a mage held aloft in the talons of a Griffon. Bone could do nothing against him, helplessly dangling far above the city.

"Listen to reason, Bone Marrow!"

His eyes glowed fiercely in reply, the colt quickly losing himself to madness. What had they done with Scenic? Had they killed her when he was taken?

"I don't want anypony else to die here, Bone Marrow! I want peace for Equestria, but not with Celestia in power. You could help me! You could turn the tide of the battle and overthrow that golden tyrant and spare yourself in the process!"

"You only want to use me, Anvil!" Bone yelled, kicking at the ponies that held him. "You want me to be your disposable monstrosity!"

Anvil shook his head, "No, Bone Marrow, I want to return Princess Luna to her rightful place on the throne. She would reward you, I'm certain of it!

"You have nothing I want!"

The necromancer looked to himself and thought of a single word.


His body writhed in agony as he began to disintegrate, his hooves falling apart as his heart failed him and turned to ash. He wouldn't be held captive and helpless by Anvil, he wouldn't place the lives of everypony in Canterlot in danger by being a prisoner. He wouldn't betray those he cared about for promises of reward.

He had an army to kill, to slaughter to the last, to consume and devour and destroy. He couldn't do that from captivity, but he could if he died. If his remains fell to the city below. From all the ponies that had died, it would barely take any time for him to return, to resurrect.

The necromancer's ashes fell and spread across the billowing wind like arctic ash. Anvil was dumbfounded, his jaw dropped open along with the other ponies and griffon present.

"H-he..." Anvil muttered, following the descending ashes as they scattered to the wind.

When Bone awakened once more, he found himself in the slums of Canterlot. Ponies had gathered around him, seemingly spared the death that would have come to them, had Bone not already slaughtered hundreds. He cracked his neck, noting that his clothing had remained intact. He placed a hoof on his neck, noticing a missing weight. The enchantments had prevented his magic from interacting with it, from causing it to re-form on his body when he returned to life.


He looked around, the necklace nowhere to be found. If Scenic was dead as he feared, he wouldn't be able to resurrect her without it.


The ponies nearby backed away as a swirling vortex of ice gathered around the necromancer. His eyes shone like lighthouses in the fog as he stormed off, his speed amplified by the power of the dead. Street after street he had flashbacks of Galloping Glades. He was searching for Scenic Sights all over again, even more worried than before.

Across Canterlot his own skeletons fought on, their link to Bone Marrow causing them to emit an icy fog from their eyes and jaws. A pained cry sounded from the dead as their master frantically ran through the city in search of the pocket watch containing his friend's soul.

The Bright Moon froze in fear before backing away. The skeletons no longer cared to defend themselves as blows glanced off their icy skeletal bodies. The skies began to cloud out the moon above gathering with a dark menace and ash began to fall on the battle below.

The skeletons assembled themselves, some leaping from the tall walls of Canterlot's gate to join the rest. Mages jetted fire across them, incinerating large swaths of the dead only to have more take their place.

"Where is it!?" Bone shouted to the empty streets of the golden city. "Where did it fall!?"

Streets began to freeze over, lamp posts frosted and blood became crimson ice. A steady wailing of slaughtered thousands rang throughout the city with undead sympathy to their master's pain, the void rapidly clamping down on his mind.

A single Crystal Pony advanced on the skeletons holding a box of diamond, a small silver locket contained within. Ponies of the Bright Moon backed away immediately, running for the nearby Everfree Forest. The pony walked calmly towards the army of the dead, opening the box.

Shards of red screamed outward from the diamond box and swirled around the crystalline pony in a flurry of death. Skeletons splintered and shattered, they turned to ash and were blown apart as the energy holding their bodies together was torn from their bones.

The gate was still raised, however. Celestia herself called upon her magic to contain the approaching pony in a dome shield, preventing their progress. Crystal hooves cautiously tapped against the shield before glowering at the Princess.

Remaining skeletons gathered around the shield, each raising their weapons to strike. The Loathing Heart might remain, but nopony would be able to get close enough to move it again. As Celestia dropped her magical shield the skeletons swung their weapons, shattering the crystal pony to pieces. The skeletons themselves were obliterated entirely as well, the Loathing Heart undoing them as quickly as a thousand daggers.

Bone was seething with hatred now, his horn sparking with dark energies. The void called to him, shouting in his ear. Kill them all, destroy the city. Use their bodies to find your loved one again.

Beating hearts...

He had a moment of clairity in his madness. If he could sense beating hearts, then perhaps not all was lost. He knew how to reach Scenic, after all.

Scenic Sights.

Black fog shifted to the tower, Scenic inspecting her own hooves and leaping up. She took to the skies looking frantically down to the city below. She was alive.

Bone breathed a sigh of relief. "She's alright..."

The colt made his way back to the Palace, his glowing eyes soon revealing his location. Griffons attempted to kill him, as did Bat Ponies. None were successful, and the necromancer killed them before they had a chance to plunge a sword into his heart. Would-be assassins became faithful skeletal body guards in his wake, soon fighting in the skies to bring more flying souls down to the cobblestone beneath to be reborn.

He smiled, spotting a familiar face. "Scenic!"

The necromancer walked along a bed of ice that followed his hoofsteps; a swirling maelstrom of the cold void.

"Bone! Look around you!" Scenic called out, "Look what's happening to you!"

He shook his head, "It doesn't matter any more Scenic, you're alive! If you stay with me, I can keep you alive long enough to find your Soul Jar together!"

"Find my Soul Jar?" Scenic's eyes shot open, "Oh no!"

"It's fine, Scenic! We can find it together!"

Bone saw only too late as a Bat Pony swooped towards his only friend, a blacked dagger held in his mouth and pointed directly towards her chest. His heart nearly stopped as the two collided, both tumbling in a mass of feathers and blood on the cobblestone.


The void inside of Bone deepened into an endless pit. Icy chill became a blizzard of death, unbridled rage built within the young necromancer as he rushed to the aid of his fallen friend. The Bat pony had barely a moment to catch his breath before his body was torn apart by skeletal griffons, shearing his limbs from his torso as his heart and lungs exploded, his torso melting into ash and his eyes rotting inside of their sockets. His ribs became spears as skeletons tore them from his dying body, impaling him with his own bones again and again like swords, what little life left in him convulsing in agony and torment.

"Scenic..." Bone whispered. The dagger had gone directly into her heart. She wasn't moving.

Heal! Heal Heal Heal!

The necromancer held his friend's quickly freezing body in his hooves as her killer finally died. A cold numbness descended on Bone Marrow, a mind clearing iciness that laid everything bare.

Scenic was dead. Her soul jar was lost because of him. His need to kill ponies, to not be taken captive, had ended with the death of his friend. If he couldn't find her Soul Jar, she would be dead and trapped forever, her soul unable to escape. He hadn't protected her.

What did it matter now? She was dead. Canterlot is under siege, ponies are dying all around. Why did he think that she would be spared? Her body fell from Bone's hooves as he stood. It didn't matter anymore. Every single member of the Bright Moon was going to die. He would find Scenic's Soul Jar, he would bring her back, and he would leave Equestria behind.

He would kill them all.

When Celestia next saw Bone Marrow, she faced a horrifying reflection of her past she knew all too well. A necromancer that had fallen into madness. His eyes were shining beacons of death as griffons and ponies fell from the skies. The few Bright Moon that had managed to move past the Loathing Heart clutched their chest or disintegrated into ash in front of her. Minotaur bellowed their last as they were torn apart by ravenous hordes of the undead, any fallen soon rising up to join the skeletons that had killed them.

Even her own inner warmth of the Sun left her chilled. The ice, frost and fog that eminated from Bone Marrow and his hordes caused a flash winter that mixed with the falling ash from the sky. His energies had poisoned the weather itself, his rage had been worked into a blizzard that she felt happened far too often.

Princess Celestia knew what was happening. She had seen three others go through the same thing. There was only one artifact that might be able to save what remained of Bone Marrow. Celestia didn't want to risk killing him and having an even worse Necromancer eventually take his place.

She thought of what he had said before; Luna was alive. She was not Nightmare Moon, but herself. Looking to the Palace, an idea came to the singular ruler of Equestria.

He might be banished, but he would be alive...

The Final Evil

View Online

The sheltered citizenry of Canterlot watched Bone Marrow from the thin veil of safety their homes offered. Skeletons galloped and stampeded through the streets of Canterlot, the city of marble and gold. The Capitol of Equestria was being covered in ash and frost, screams of the dying and the clash of battle filling their air. They ducked as the necromancer's searching eyes passed over them, tales of horror and death being brought to the front of their minds about the threat that the young colt presented.

Princess Celestia had abandoned the front gate of the city, causing the living to route and scatter towards the Palace. She had more to worry about than the Bright Moon breaching the walls now. From what she had seen, Bone Marrow had lost himself to the void. Frost and ice flowed from his passing, his skeletons chilling the blood of those they fought through both terror and the fog flowing from their eyes.

This would only get worse, she knew. As more ponies died, Bone Marrow would fall deeper and deeper into the void. She had to do something. She had to use the Elements of Harmony to banish him before he could do any more harm to Equestria.

"Princess Celestia!"

Her head whipped around, eyes opening with surprise as Bone Marrow stared in her direction. She readied her axe reflexively, taking a step back.

"I need your help," Bone coldly requested.

"You what?"

"Scenic's soul jar is missing," the young necromancer explained, "I'm missing my pocket watch and I can't bring her back unless I find it."

She hadn't been expecting this development in the slightest. The colt had contained his own friend's soul?

"Help me find it, and I will leave Equestria forever."

The Princess' mind was reeling. He wasn't on a murderous rampage? No, it didn't make sense. He wasn't screaming in madness, though there was a hunger to him. She saw his cold eyes staring through her as if she were a ghost.

"You've lost yourself to the void, haven't you?" Celestia questioned, shielding herself with a magical sphere.

Bone groaned through clenched teeth, his breath hissing like a mist. "What does it matter anymore? I just want Scenic to be alive again; I don't care how that happens!" He reached a hoof out to the princess of the sun, "Help me get her back, and you rid yourself of me forever. I'll live someplace else, I'll bring my madness along with me and you won't have to deal with another necromancer again."

She shook her head. She couldn't let him go off into the world where she couldn't find him. This entire conflict, the Bright Moon, her sister... it had all been born of her own callousness towards non-ponies. Even a colt had become a villain under her singular rule.

The necromancer stomped his small hoof on the icy ground. "Will you help me, or not?"

Celestia looked to the colt. She could buy time if she agreed. Time enough to get the Elements and to banish him. "I will help you, necromancer."

A wide grin spread across his face. "You help me find the pocket watch that I normally wear around my neck, and I'll kill the Bright Moon. No more rebellion, no more Necromancer."

The colt turned before she could reply, speeding off into the dark night through icy fog as screams of agony sounded anew.

Was she really going to betray him? Protected by her magic, she took a moment of self reflection. The Elements of Harmony had barely resonated with her compared to the centuries of the past. She and Luna had protected Equestria from countless evils that sought to annihilate her little ponies, and here she was, making a deal with the closest representation of death available.

She tossed the idea around in her mind, seeking some kind of loophole. She would have to banish him, she knew. But how could she do that without losing the Element of Honesty, rendering the entire set useless? She would have to find the watch that Bone spoke of... but he never said that it would need to be returned immediately.

The princess sighed. No, that would be a betrayal no matter how she spun it. She had agreed to find the pocket watch, and she would have to do that before gathering the Elements.

Her head raised as a scream came from around an nearby corner. She spotted her former captain driving a blade through a griffon's beak and approached him.

"Princess Celestia!" Pure Intent greeted, pulling the blade from his dead foe. "I see you still take orders from the Necromancer!"

Her eyes narrowed with suspicion. "What are you talking about, Pure Intent?"

He gestured in the direction Bone Marrow had run off. "You give him a pocket watch and he leaves Equestria? What, of the kindness in his heart? His word binding him to the truth of what he promises?"

Pure Intent was correct. The Elements of Kindness and Honesty hadn't resonated with the young colt. Was it betrayal if she couldn't trust Bone Marrow to begin with?

"He plans on using you for his own aims, Princess Celestia." Pure Intent explained, "He seeks to eradicate all life in Equestria, just as the other necromancers have in the past. Why would he be any different? He has clearly given in to the madness of the void. There can be no redemption for him now!"

Doubt rose in the princess, "What of the other Elements? What of his loyalty, his generosity?"

Pure Intent scoffed, "Do you see generosity around you, Princess Celestia? Do you find loyalty in a necromancer only out for himself? Whatever good in that colt is gone now. He must be killed. There is no laughter left in him, only the magic of the void calling him to slaughter the living."

Celestia glanced at nearby skeletons chasing a Diamond Dog through the streets. "I still have hope for him, Pure Intent. He clings on to the knowledge that his friend might be revived."

The former captain raised a brow at that. "What would he do then after his filly friend is returned to life? Leave us all in peace as he promises? You should know better than anypony how trustworthy a Necromancer is."

"I would rather keep a necromancer with a chance at redemption than to cast my dice for a new one I know nothing of, Captain." Princess Celestia explained, shifting her golden axe to her back. "I have a chance to turn a villain into an ally; of turning a monster into a guardian."

Pure Intent scowled. "He has truly tainted your mind, hasn't he? Even now, with the evidence of his evil rampant through out the city, you advocate for the monster, the abomination against all that is right in Equestria."

The princess stared down at Pure Intent. "Find the pocket watch, Captain. I will gather the Elements."

He grinned as Celestia spread her large wings, catapulting herself into the sky towards the palace. "As you say, Princess."

Bone was losing hope. He couldn't find Scenic's Soul Jar no matter how hard he looked, no matter how many houses had been searched and rooftops scoured. His worry was combating the hunger of the void itself within him. If he couldn't find Scenic, he would have no reason to fight the voices in his head that commanded the death of every beating heart.

Gone was his worry for the lives of other ponies; the void had seen to that. His body gripped in the icy talons of the void, every inhibition was shattering under the void's pressure on his mind. The Bright Moon couldn't hope for mercy as skeletons tore them limb from limb, impaling them with sword and cleaving their bodies apart with axes and halberds.

Skeletal Griffons, Pegasus and Bat Ponies alike soared through the sky, circling the city and preying upon any Bright Moon that had made their way past the wall. He no longer cared if Canterlot fell. His one concern in life was his only friend, Scenic Sights.

She had been with him through most of his time as a Necromancer. She understood him better than anypony else, and nothing he did disturbed her. She didn't cower in fear at the sight of his eyes, she didn't beg for her life. She cared for him. Other ponies had sought to use him like a tool or a weapon for their own aims or had been polite and courteous to save themselves from death.

He scowled as a Bat Pony crashed in front of him, a bloody stump in place of her left wing. It looked like her bones had broken on impact with the cobblestone and he approached the wounded mare.

Looking up, her pupils shrank in horror and pain as she attempted to shuffle herself away from the necromancer.

"Where are you going?" Bone questioned, slowly walking after the crippled bat. "Do you think you're going to live; that you'll survive this battle in that condition?"

The bat pony had her back pressed to a marble wall, the frost of the necromancer's madness chilling her body causing it to shake with building hypothermia.

"Why are you even here? What did you think would happen?"

"P-please!" The mare begged, her one good hoof holding her broken ribs, "Please d-dont kill me!"

"Why shouldn't I?" Bone countered, "Why should you live when my only friend lays dead on the ground at the hooves of the Bright Moon?"

"M-my friends are dead t-too!" She squeaked, her own pain causing her to yelp in pain as shards of broken bone shredded flesh. "I-I'm the last one!"

The necromancer's icy gaze narrowed on the wounded mare. Her eyes were wide with terror, her breathing was rapid and her heart was faltering under the strain. Blood drained from her broken body; from her dismembered wing. She would be dead soon, with or without his involvement.

"I n-never wanted any of this t-to happen!" The mare stammered, slumping down against the marble wall behind her. A streak of blood followed her descent to the ground. "I just w-wanted to stop killing, t-to live in peace, to go h-home to my f-family..."

A pang of regret stirred inside of the necromancer, the mare striking a chord within his icy heart.

She was losing her senses to bloodloss, beginning to babble. "D-do you have a family, n-necromancer? I'm sure m-most ponies do... why wouldn't you have one t-too?"

Her eyelids drooped as she fought to remain concious, "C-can I see them? Can you let me speak with m-my family again before I die?"

The void called for her death, but Bone Marrow had other plans.


The mare coughed blood onto herself as a shifting rib punctured her lung. She screamed in agony as she doubled over on the cobblestone, dark blue magic flowing over her body as it grew limbs and mended bone and flesh.

"Tell your family that you love them," Bone replied, "Tell them how much you care for them, Bat Pony. Some of us never get the chance. Sometimes our families get taken from us and there's nothing we can do about it. Tell Anvil to withdraw his forces. I will give him one last chance. If he assaults Canterlot and ignores my warning, I will not care what kind of story a dying pony tells me. If I find you on this battlefield again, you will die. Your friends will die, your family will die."

The mare was astonished at her recovery and equally chilled by the necromancer's cold tone. "T-thank you, necromancer!"

Bone scowled, "Don't thank me, Bright Moon. Flee for your life before I take it from you."

Her ears folded back in shock and she took to the skies immediately, skeletal minions allowing her passage through the skies of Canterlot. Cold fog vented from the colt's nostrils as he looked to the bloody ground in front of him.

"I'm trying, Scenic." The necromancer muttered, "The void hasn't fully taken me yet..."

Princess Celestia had reached the Palace's Reliquary, the Elements of Harmony dominating the far wall on their pedestal. Passing through the hall she recollected other events in her life. The killing of King Sombra, the defeat of Discord, the sealing of Lord Tirek in Tartarus.

Luna had been with her every step of the way, until now. She had given far more for Equestria, Celestia realized. Luna was the protector of her ponies' dreams and their bodies while she had remained in Canterlot, far from the conflicts that she thought necessary. It was all coming back to haunt her. She had banished Nightmare Moon but her legacy was outside the marble walls, killing the ponies she sought to protect.

Bone Marrow was running rampant, slaughtering all in his path. Her Knights had been disbanded; the force that she had assumed gave only good to the whole of Equestria. Only now in recent days had she begun to doubt her judgement.

Looking up to the Elements of Harmony, she extended a hoof once more. Loyalty and Kindness had grown brighter since her last visit, causing the princess to wonder.

"What are you trying to tell me?" Celestia questioned, "Have I truly fallen that far?" She gestured towards the entrance with an armored hoof, "The necromancer has given in to the void, and you would have me show mercy to him?"

Kindness dimmed at her outburst, the princess sighing in frustration. "What must I do, then? What do you want from me?"

The Element of Magic flashed brightly, the alicorn's mind swimming with visions of the future. She saw a purple alicorn surrounded by five friends, each bearing a single element in their hooves. She saw a statue of Bone Marrow in a ruined temple surrounded by hooded ponies, his golden pocket watch dangling from its stony neck.

Blinking the images from her sight, Celestia was even more confused. She looked to the Elements, each one emitting a face she had never seen. Each Element now glowed with a steady brightness in Celestia's presence. She had no idea what any of it meant, but she knew that as a Princess she would live to see the Element's plans come to pass. For whatever reason, the Elements had shown a statue of Bone Marrow. Perhaps they didn't plan to banish him, as they had with Princess Luna?

She gathered the Elements with her sunny magic and placed them into sockets on her armor. She would need to find that pocket watch after all, it seemed.

Chants of battle and the drumming of war continued as Bone walked along the battlements of Canterlot's walls. Some ponies had retreated into the forest though a stubborn few remained. He guessed they numbered in the thousands; The remnants of destroyed nations that had vowed revenge.

It didn't matter to the necromancer if they chose to stay or not. They had allied themselves with the Bright Moon, and they would die if they attacked. His own skeletal army perched on rooftops, towers and the battlements themselves as the rest flowed from the main gate.

Canterlot still stood against the siege. Magic had burned homes and destroyed entire districts, but the walls had held. Bone guessed the golden trim was for more than show.

The Loathing Heart still remained on the ground outside of the gate, Bone's skeletons keeping their distance from the destructive artifact. Bone Marrow saw little point in bringing it closer to himself or interacting with it at all. If he left it where it lay, then it couldn't harm him. Anypony stupid enough to walk into it deserved the death that would quickly come.

It was a standoff against Bone and the Bright Moon. The necromancer keeping to his word and the remaining forces of the Bright Moon working up the courage to attack.


Bone turned to look behind him, spotting none other than Pure Intent. The void demanded his death immediately, as it did with any beating heart he could sense.

"What do you want, Captain?"

He held a hoof into the air, a golden shimmer coming from it. "I believe this is yours?"

Bone's ears shot up in surprise. "How did you find that!?"

"I watched the Bright Moon take you, Necromancer. I was going to kill you myself before they interrupted me." He dangled Scenic's soul jar from its golden chain around his hoof. "I never imagined that you would contain your own friend's soul, though. That's a new level of evil that I didn't know existed!"

The void suggested he could kill Pure Intent and take back the pocket watch from his ashes. For once, Bone agreed.


A dark blue bolt of energy lanced out to the Captain, striking him in the chest and sending him flying back into a marble wall. He stood back on his hooves, coughing. "Betraying the Princess so soon?"

Why aren't you dying?

The stallion tapped an armored hoof against his chest. "I am shielded from your vile magics, Necromancer!"

"Oh," Bone grumbled, "Enchantments."

Just in the same way that he couldn't kill Obscenely Rich when they encountered each other the first time, magical enchantments barred him from killing Pure Intent. The book had mentioned even a foal's shield could protect them and Bone wondered why he never considered that necromancer hunters would be protected against necromancer magic.

"What do you want, Pure Intent?" Bone called out from the battlements to the captain below.

He pointed to the pocket watch. "I want you to trade places with your friend! I want an Equestria free from evil, from necromancers like yourself preying on the innocent and slaughtering thousands!"

Bone's horn lit with a dark blue glow, pulling on the pocket watch to wrestle it from Pure Intent's grasp. He wasn't going to play a game of keep-away when he had magic to take back what was rightfully his.

"You will break your friend's soul jar!" Pure Intent shouted, desperately attempting to hold on, "You fool, you will doom us if it shatters!"

The necromancer rolled his eyes. The pocket watch was invulnerable.

"No!" Pure cried, the watch being plucked from his grasp as he fell to the ground in a heap of metal. "How is this possible!?"

Bone held the pocket watch in his hoof. "Enchantments."

The Knight's ears folded as skeletal Griffons and Minotaur gathered around him, drawing his sword in a futile attempt to defend himself. "Back, you undead abominations! Back!"

A minotaur's bony fingers clamped on Pure's head, crushing his helmet in its grasp. The Knight slipped from his armor and pulled away only for talons to rake his sides and peel away metal from his chest plate. "No! This isn't how this was meant to be!"

Pure looked up at Bone Marrow on the wall, noting that the Necromancer had opened the pocket watch and seemed more concerned with what was inside than his own fate. Grinning, the Knight reared onto his hind legs and hurled his blade at the colt.

Spinning through the air, Bone didn't notice the blade headed for his body. It embedded itself in the necromancer and caused him to fall from the battlements onto the concrete below, driving the blade through his spine. Nearby skeletons disintegrated to give their magic for their master in an attempt to heal him.

Bone struggled with the blade in his chest, unable to breathe as stomach acid melted his insides from the blade's entry into his gut. Reaching a hoof for Scenic's Soul Jar, Pure's armor pressed down on it. His next step shattered the necromancer's horn into dust.

"I've got you now, necromancer."

Princess Celestia flew overhead in search of the necromancer when she spotted flickering lights at Canterlot's main gate. Skeletons were falling, and a white colt lay on the ground. She realized that it was Bone Marrow and swooped down with great speed.

Coming to a heavy landing in her armor she spotted Pure Intent looming over the dying body of the colt. "Captain!" Celestia shouted, "What are you doing!?"

"I've found the pocket watch as you asked, Princess. I've also crippled the necromancer! Use the Elements of Harmony; kill him while he is weak!"

She saw now that the young colt had a sword impaled through his body, severing his spine below the rib cage. His horn was shattered, his skeletons were nowhere to be found.

"W-why?" Bone coughed, his hoof still grasping at Scenic's Soul Jar. "I... I didn't..."

"Silence!" Pure shouted, crushing the colt's hooves under him. "You will answer for your crimes against Equestria, for the deaths of thousands!"

"I didn't break..." The necromancer grunted, "my promise..."

Pure Intent gestured to Celestia, "You have the Elements, Princess Celestia. Use them! Free Equestria from this evil!"

The Elements of Harmony flickered in the Princess' armor. They whispered of injustice, of cruelty and misery. She looked between the two, her captain and the necromancer.

"As you wish, Captain." Celestia's golden axe was drawn from her back in a golden aura of the sun and pointed itself to Pure Intent. "Back away from the Necromancer."

The Knight grinned wide, stepping away with eager anticipation. Celestia approached Bone Marrow, leaning her head close to him.

"I'm sorry for this, Bone Marrow, but I don't have the magic to heal your wounds."

Pure Intent looked on with horror as the necromancer weakly smiled. The axe raised into the air and aligned itself with Bone's neck.

"What are you doing!?" Pure shouted, "He'll come back!"

The axe decended on the colt's neck, severing his head from his body in a single strike that chipped cobblestone from the street; Her magic tearing the captain's blade from the necromancer's body and casting it over the wall.

"I'm well aware of that, Pure Intent." Celestia replied, moving towards the former captain. "I have seen evil today, as have the Elements of Harmony..."

The captain backed away from the golden princess, his terror deepening. "W-what do you mean? I crippled the necromancer! He wasn't able to harm anypony anymore!"

She shook her head, "How many ponies have you harmed, Pure Intent?"

"B-but everything I've done was in service to you! To the protection of Equestria!"

The axe was held steadily in Celestia's magic as Bone Marrow began to resurrect behind her. Dark creeping tendrils of death searched outward for life, consuming the blood of the fallen and the freshly slain corpses of Royal Guard and turning them to ash.

"You are correct, Captain." The princess conceded, "But my ideals were misguided. I was wrong."

The former captain's world was crashing down around him. "What!? How could you be wrong? You're Princess Celestia!"

"Do you regret the things you've done?" Celestia countered, "Do you lay awake at night thinking of how things could have been different?"

Pure's bewildered stare answered her question.

"I've fought evil countless times, Pure Intent. I've become too detached from the ponies I sought to protect. I've become cold; heartless." She gestured to the fallen Bright Moon nearby as their corpses were devoured. "Perhaps my sister was right all along. I've lost touch with who I used to be before we ruled Equestria, when we were together."

The Knight's gaze was still focused on Celestia's threatening axe.

"I ordered Luna to destroy nations in the name of Equestria's defense. I've sought to protect everypony by ensuring that nothing could rise up to harm them. I've become the evil that I sought to purge from the world, Pure Intent." Celestia continued, pointing to Bone Marrow. "This necromancer wouldn't have harmed a soul had I not ordered you and the Knights of the Sun to hunt him. He would have lived his life in peace as best as the void would allow him. Perhaps I could have even helped him control it..."

She sighed, "Now however, I fear that the possibility might be out of his reach." Her magic plucked Scenic's Soul Jar from beneath Pure Intent's hoof and carried it towards the princess. "There is hope, but not now. Not in these times of strife and conflict."

"What... are you planning to do?" Pure replied cautiously.

"The Elements of Harmony have given me a vision of the future, Captain. They show Six ponies embodying the Elements, rather than Luna and myself. Perhaps my own judgement has become too clouded over the centuries of my life to see the actions of others as benign. Maybe it is a lesson they seek to teach me."

The captain pointed to Bone Marrow. "What of him? Will you kill him?"

Celestia shook her head. "I will see what the Elements of Harmony wish of him. Then, I will speak with Anvil."

Pure Intent blinked, "What!?"

"This war is pointless." Princess Celestia snapped, taking a moment to control herself. "My ponies kill each other because my own arrogance and hubris prevented me from hearing their side of the argument, just as I refused to listen to Luna." She pointed to Bone Marrow's nearly finished form as the last few tendrils of dark magic withdrew into his body. "Foals should not be slaughtering thousands because of my own paranoia, of my mistakes. They should live happy lives, just as this necromancer wanted. It was my actions that drove him to madness, my own actions that caused a civil war and the banishment of my sister!"

Her axe slammed down into the cobblestone street. "No more, Pure Intent. No more will I ignore the suffering of my ponies while I live in a golden palace in Canterlot. No more will my armies march upon unsuspecting nations for the threat they might pose Equestria one day."

Bone Marrow's eyes opened slowly, a hoof reaching to his neck. He remembered that the pocket watch had been taken from him as his vision came into focus.

Celestia's golden hoof reached towards his muzzle and he backed away onto his hooves. "You betrayed me!"

He looked to the Princess' side, spotting Pure Intent. His anger grew once again to chill the air, his teeth grinding with malice.

"Bone Marrow," Celestia interjected, "I have your friend's Soul Jar."

The colt's view flicked to the golden pocket watch held in the princess' magic. His own dark blue reached out and he once again held it lovingly in his hooves.

"I am sorry, Bone Marrow."

Bone looked up, a growing energy coming from the Princess. The spectrum of a rainbow was assembling itself as she rose into the air.

"No! What are you doing!?" The young necromancer backed away, shielding his eyes from the blinding light. "We had a deal!"

A wave of energy slammed into Bone Marrow and he could feel his body harden. His hooves stiffened in place as he was quickly encased in stone. His eyes were the last to freeze, promising death and destruction to Princess Celestia.

Skeletons all across Canterlot fell, the flying dead turning to an ashen rain as their master was enveloped. He stood as a statue, his hood frozen in an unseen billowing wind and shielded from a light that no longer existed.

The clattering of gems came from the Princess as the Elements of Harmony fell to the ground, becoming grey stones. Celestia lowered her head. "I am sorry, Bone Marrow."

Her golden magic floated Scenic's Soul Jar across the small gap between Princess and Necromancer, fastening the pocket watch around him.

Pure Intent pointed to the soul jar. "What of the necromancer's friend? Will she not be tormented until his return?"

Celestia shook her head. "A soul without a body knows no pain or suffering, it knows no memory." She looked to the shocked captain adding, "What can you tell me of your life before you were a pony?"


She gestured to Bone Marrow. "Just as we don't know what happened before our life began, the necromancer and his friend will not feel the passage of time. Should he ever awaken, it will be as if a second had passed." Lowering her hoof to the soul jar she added, "Scenic Sights may be dead, her soul contained, but she is unaware of it. To her, she has died today as much as she will have died in the future."

"What do you plan on doing with them?" Pure asked, now less worried that the Princess might use her axe on him.

"They will be secluded, far away from prying eyes." Celestia explained. "He will return in the future... I only hope that I will have become wise enough to fix my mistakes."

For once during the long night, the city of Canterlot was quiet. Ash soon stopped falling and the ice covered streets melted. Blood was washed away into the drains and citizens began to poke their heads from their homes. Royal Guard returned to their posts and assisted the surviving wounded of their own side as much as the Bright Moon, on Celestia's decree. The Loathing Heart had been contained in a crystalline case once again and securely stored within the palace's reliquary.

The Princess of the Sun sent word to Anvil, the leader of the Bright Moon, for a parley. Both sides were tense after the night's battle and the thousands that had been turned to ash, but Celestia's own mask of calm allowed for diplomacy to function.

Griffons, Minotaur, Diamond Dogs and other species voiced their outrage with Celestia, and she accepted their viewpoints. She vowed to rebuild their nations as an effort of good will, understanding that it would be a long time before any of them viewed herself or Equestria in a welcoming light.

Peace came at a cost, however. The civil war that had raged since Luna's banishment had left the nation of Equestria weakened to conflict for the time being, even with the remaining Bright Moon being integrated into the Royal Guard. Splinter factions from destroyed nations pillaged the land for decades before finally being captured.

Captain Pure Intent lead several skirmishes with the combined forces of Equestria, eventually being slain by a dragon known as Scald when he ventured too close to the Dragonlands.

Bright Idea continued a good life, extended partially by Bone Marrow's magic that had healed more than just his eye and horn. He eventually died peacefully of old age, surrounded by loving family members.

Obscenely Rich stayed true to his word in creating a town for the few survivors of Galloping Glades. He hadn't come up with a better name than Ponyville, but his descendants did what they could to maintain and allow the town to prosper.

Granny Smith went on to have a family of her own and settle down in Ponyville, curiously looking younger than her years as she never let on about how old she really was.

Radiance, Obscenely Rich's tailor, went on to open her own shop in Canterlot where she designed dresses before settling down herself, finding the perfect stallion.

Of Bone Marrow's royal guard friends, only Shy Sprint survived. He had been frightened during the battle of Canterlot and stayed behind in the city to protect civilians that had been unwilling to assist in the defense of the city. He lived a long life as well, raising a family of his own.

Countess Lulamoon continued her own illusory magic in the courts of Canterlot's nobility before retiring, her own age the one thing she was unable to defeat. She raised a family, passing on her own unique brand of speaking to the generations that would follow.

Frosty Pie, the young filly saved from Galloping Glades along with her father, soon settled down in Ponyville. Her father had tried a hoof at being the town's baker, but his hooves just weren't right for it. In the following years, Frosty Pie would attempt to open a shop and eventually succeed, finding a partner with a comparatively boring stallion that managed a rock farm on the outskirts of the town.

Princess Celestia opened a school of her own, hoping to teach the young unicorns of Equestria before they could end up like Bone Marrow from being unaware. Any gifted foal was brought in, their magical abilities honed along with a distinct set of values in tune with the Elements of Harmony. She didn't want disaster to strike and be caught unaware of a threat brewing within her own borders.

Through the passage of time, Celestia slowly realized their plan for Bone Marrow.

Over the course of his short time as a necromancer, he had secured the future lives of the ponies that her student, Twilight Sparkle, would soon befriend. She traced their lineage through the centuries back to the ponies that had been alive over a thousand years ago, noting that the young colt had protected, saved or interacted with each of them in some way.

Little over a thousand years later, Princess Celestia sat across from her sister once again at their shared dinner table. Luna was enjoying the breakfast that had been prepared for her. Celestia slumped in her chair, a hoof propping up her muzzle as she peacefully dozed off, enjoying her sister's company as the moon rose in the distance.

With a flash of green fire, a message arrived to ruin her peaceful moment. It had the seal of Princess Twilight Sparkle.

Luna raised an eyebrow, a fork hovering with a pancake near her mouth. "What is this?"

Blinking the sleep from her eyes, Celestia unfurled the scroll with her magic and read aloud.

Dear Princess Celestia,

The Cutie Map is acting strangely. There's a Raven Skull on it?

Do you know anything about this? Any advice would be appreciated.

-Princess Twilight Sparkle

Celestia sighed heavily, setting the scroll down on the table.

"I know that look..." Luna commented, taking a bite of her breakfast.

Looking up to her sister's eyes Celestia replied, "He's returned."

The Princess of the Moon nearly choked on her food, "Who, Tirek?"

Celestia shook her head. "No, Luna. The last living necromancer."